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Kamehameha Schools' Waiānuenue Preschool traces E Ola! from ma uka to ma kai

March 18, 2024

With the clang of the front gate at Waiānuenue preschool in Hilo, another happy keiki bounces in excited to get the day started. Today is a special day at school; it’s a celebration of Kō Koa Uka, Kō Koa Kai. 

Once you step foot into the Waiānuenue preschool classrooms, you’re transported to what can only be described as an E Ola! immersive experience. From piko to start the morning off pono to the ahupuaʻa made of paper and paint ʻauwai systems, with writing samples and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi echoing in the hallways, E Ola! lives in Hilo.

Kō Koa Uka, Kō Koa Kai happens a few times a year. It’s an opportunity for ʻohana to join their keiki for part of the day, experience Hawaiian culture-based education first hand and enjoy lunch together. 

“ʻOhana is a key part of the success of the keiki in our program,” said Darissa Kekuawela, Waiānuenue’s hope poʻo kumu. “Many of our families have never experienced some of the E Ola! experiences their keiki are experiencing here – it’s an amazing opportunity for the whole family and when they leave us, parents can reinforce at home what their child is learning in school.”

During the event, keiki were treated to a visit from Jay Hatayama, a Hawaiʻi Island Forester who presented different trees on island and their significance to our fragile ecosystem, and Brad Tamashiro, kalo farmer and father to a keiki who attends the school. Tamashiro demonstrated how to clean kalo before cooking and explained that no part of the plant goes unused.

“Introducing keiki to kuʻi kalo allows them to understand the growing and preparation of their own food from an early age,” added Kekuawela. “Even for the mākua, this might be the first time they’re doing this too. It’s special being able to share this experience with their child.” 

To further understand the synergy between classroom activities and Kō Koa Uka, Kō Koa Kai, kumu have been reading books to the keiki during classroom circle time like ‘O Kaina Ke Kumu Koa (Kaina The Koa Tree). From the book, Kalama the ʻelepaio bird is a favorite of the keiki. During the event, mākua helped their child make ʻelepaio masks while also learning about its habitat, its importance to our ecosystem and why they are endangered. 

“Everything we do here in E Ola! is intentional,” emphasized Kekuawela. “Through E Ola! our strong kumu teams are able to teach our keiki mālama ʻāina which includes science, math, critical thinking and their kuleana in the world around them.

“I’m so thankful for our kumu who have built strong teams, our keiki who come to school eager to learn every day and our ohana who graciously share their most precious gifts with us.”

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Kaipuolono Article, Regions, East Hawai’i, Themes, Culture, Community, E Ola!, Hawaii Newsroom, KS Announcements, Newsroom, Preschools, Preschools

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