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After learning about different types of pōhaku made by Pele, the KSM elementary schoolers had an opportunity to carefully touch some artifacts made from lava rocks.

KS Maui kumu weave Mauna Loa eruption into cultural lessons

Jan. 30, 2023

Mauna Loa’s dynamic eruption late last year enhanced cultural lessons for haumāna at Kamehameha Schools Maui. Lava flowed from Mokuʻāweoweo, the summit caldera, for the first time in 38 years.

The eruption started a few days after KSM kumu Evan Jenkins read “Pele and Poliʻahu – A Tale of Fire and Ice” to his first- and second-grade art students. The book, which features stunning illustrations, retells the legend of a sled race between Pele – the goddess of fire and volcanoes, and Poliʻahu – the goddess of snow.

“Everyone was really excited. They had seen it on the news. Poliʻahu actually came at the same time. Mauna Kea had snow at the same time Pele was flowing on Mauna Loa,” said Jenkins, who lived on Hawaiʻi Island for 18 years.

The haumāna also learned about the different textures of aʻa and pahoehoe lava as well as the shapes of the two volcanoes they depicted in their drawings.

“Mauna Loa is very long and curved, as it is a shield volcano, and Mauna Kea is kind of more pointed but it’s still a shield volcano,” explained Jenkins. “The lava can be smooth or rough, and then with Poliʻahu, it’s icy and cold. The students get to make these distinctions in this drawing assignment.”

Jenkins also plans to have students create a volcano out of ceramic tiles for a collaborative class project. Ceramic volcanoes made in previous years are currently on display in a hallway outside his office.

A lesson related to the volcanic activity was also added to KSM’s special session on Lā Kūʻokoʻa (Hawaiian Independence Day), which was celebrated the day after the lava surfaced. Kumu Naupaka Joaquin and Kumu Hōkūao Pellegrino shared photos of the flow with students in kindergarten through second grade. After learning about different types of pōhaku made by Pele, the haumāna had an opportunity to carefully touch some artifacts, including pōhaku kuʻi ʻai and pōhaku ʻulu maika.

“We see this geographic activity going on and we’re able to physically hold tools that were made by our kūpuna during and after those times, and that’s powerful to indigenous peoples,” said Joaquin, who teaches ʻike Hawaiʻi.

The reawakening of Mauna Loa helped spark excitement in the students, leading to a better understanding and appreciation of the cultural significance of eruptions.

“We were encouraging haumāna to look at this occurrence through different lenses, one being the creation of new land being set forth through Pele,” said Joaquin. “We can go deeper through our understanding of moʻokūʻauhau, understanding of ʻōlelo and moʻolelo. A five- or six-year-old being able to interpret and make a little sense of these big topics is a definite win for kumu.”

KSM Elementary School art students depicted the differences between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea for a drawing assignment.

Kumu Naupaka Joaquin and Kumu Hōkūao Pellegrino share photos of the Mauna Loa eruption with KSM haumāna.

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