Geoff's Notes

Sun, 13 Feb 2005

Slept in a bit yesterday, and then got some laundry done before heading to the Bishop Museum for another field trip, this time to the Hakipu'u Learning Center, a Hawaiian studies Charter School in Kane'ohe on the windward side. In 1999, the state of Hawai'i passed a bill mandating the creation of 23 charter schools, and within a year all 23 were actively being developed. Of those, thirteen focus particularly on Hawaiian studies, like Hakipu'u, and seven are Hawaiian emersion programs using the Hawaiian language as their center.

The Haikipu'u Learning Center is a multi-age, multi-level institution started three years ago with a 7th grade level class, adding a class level each year until the school is 7-12. One of the core principles is that students become teachers, as we all should pass on our knowledge, so older students instruct the younger. Immediately evident in any conversation with either students or teachers is a profound respect for the natural world that emerges from traditional Hawaiian culture. In fact they center their teaching around the Hawaiian word "kuleana" which translates as "privledge and responsibility," honoring the natural environment while trying to protect it within the context of modern culture. One of their projects is to replicate traditional methods of growing taro, a starch staple of the islands, and of harvesting fish in ponds built along the shore.

After getting a good feel for how the school operates, using a building on the campus of the Windward Community College, we headed for the beach (we were scheduled to go to their taro patches up higher in the hills, but the rains had been heavy enough to make that unwise), where we met a group of students from Minnesota, here on an sister school exchange. The Learning Center has begun a camp program following an Iñupiat model out of Barrow, AK in which these kids learn about Hawaiian traditions. In the late afternoon we all got to share in their equivalent of a clambake in which they create an imu or oven by digging a pit, heating a bed of rocks with plenty of fire, and then layering taro leaves above and below the edibles of pua'a (pig), kalo (taro root), breadfruit and chicken. Before eating, we had to fashion our own plates woven out of palm leaves, a very neat experience in itself, and then, what a feast! I will have to admit that both the taro and breadfruit were rather bland to my palette, but also very distinct in flavor, and I was struck by how well all these foods complimented each other. I found the pua'a very delicious, and some local sea salt did wonders for the starches. In any case, I was well satisfied when we packed up and headed back for Honolulu late in the evening.

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