Kumu Maile Hawkins and her teaching partner Ka‘āina Ishimine presented a lesson as part of a workshop entitled “Aloha ‘Āina, Aloha Mauna in the Early Learning Curriculum” during the first Puakalehua Early Learning Conference on Hawai‘i island last month.
Kumu Maile Hawkins figured out a way to teach her preschool class about the science of volcanoes after one of her haumāna complained about having a tummy ache.
“When your ‘ōpū is sore, your magma is moving,” Hawkins recalled telling her class. “How do you teach them about volcanoes where they actually understand it?”
Hawkins’ teaching partner, Ka‘āina Ishimine, uses an ‘ukulele and a karaoke-like microphone to incorporate mele into his lessons on the five mauna of Hawai‘i island.
“How are we able to engage our keiki in a way so they know our five mauna names,” Ishimine told a small group of early learning educators. “I try to have them learn musical experiences tied to our curriculum so that it makes that ‘ike, makes that knowledge, more pa ‘a (solid).”
But for Ishimine and his fellow KS kumu from Nā Kula Kamali‘i ma Kohala, they know that these classroom lessons with 3-to 5-year-olds translate into a larger community effort to support keiki, the lāhui and all of Hawai‘i.
“We’re preparing the next generation of learners,” Ishimine said “We want them to function in modern life but also to remember their kūpuna and remember the ‘āina they come from.”
Ishimine and Hawkins were part of a team of KS preschool teachers that presented some of their teaching methods in a workshop entitled “Aloha ‘Āina, Aloha Mauna in the Early Learning Curriculum,” which was part of the first Puakalehua Early Learning Conference on Hawai‘i island last month.
To create opportunities for early learning educators and others to access ongoing professional development, the Puakalehua Early Learning Consortium opened the daylong conference to teachers, caregivers, and anyone who cares for preschool-aged keiki. KS is a member of the consortium.
Themed “Mālama Kekahi I Kekahi” or “Take Care of One Another,” the conference was held at Kauhale ʻŌiwi o Puʻukapu, the campus of Kanu o ka ‘Āina, in Waimea.
Krystal Perry of Keiki O Ka ‘Āina said she hopes conference participants were able to take home something new.
“I really hope the conference continues to inspire these teachers, these educators, to continue the work that they do and to seek out new information and to see how we can combine culture-based education with Western education,” Perry said. “I’m really hoping that these teachers, especially the new ones and even the seasoned ones, that they continue to feel that passion that got them to be a teacher in this community.”
The Puakalehua Early Learning Consortium’s mission is to gather with early learning partners in West Hawai‘i to engage, collaborate, and share best practices with each other and the community. The consortium partners include People Attentive to Children (PATCH), the state Department of Education West Hawai‘i District Office, Hōkūpaʻa, Kanu O Ka ‘Āina Learning ‘Ohana (KALO), Partners in Development (PID), Keiki O Ka ‘Āina and Kamehameha Schools West Hawai‘i Region and Nā Kula Kamali‘i.
The consortium sees itself as an advocate, said Tamia McKeague, KS West Hawai‘i Region project manager and one of the organizers of the event.
“We are focusing on advocacy to promote the field of Early Learning, specifically to support those that are currently working in the field as well as to build up the next generation of Kumu,” McKeague said.
Early learning professionals earned six credit hours toward state Department of Human Services Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge or ASK Core Standards. These professions must earn 15 hours per year to comply with state standards.
Workshop topics included “The Brain Architecture Game: Why Early Childhood is Important,” “Social and Emotional Development from Infancy and Beyond,” “Be Nice! Creating a Calm Learning Environment with Mindfulness and Kindness,” “Ethnobotany; Hawaiian Plants Education” and “Power Tools for Brain Builders.”
“Having something like this gives teachers the tools to have the wherewithal to not only teach the keiki in the classroom but also to work with parents to give them the tools they need to work with their children,” said Malani DeAguiar, a former DOE and KS educator who is consortium chairperson and was the conference keynote. “This is our own way of contributing to the larger picture of the early learning effort.”