homepage logo

Lahainaluna ELL students create culturally-themed games

By Staff | Jun 7, 2012

From left, Trinh Bui Nguyen, Thomas Foley and Regiena Galano show off the Hawaiian Checkers board.

LAHAINA – Students in Lahainaluna High School’s English for Speakers of Other Languages class (ESOL) have banded together to create Hawaiian culture-themed games to further their understanding of English and Hawaiian language skills.

The project also brings about a better understanding of the Hawaiian culture and history that makes this land unique among all others, noted their teacher, Thomas Foley.

During the Kahua workshop run by Kamehameha Schools, Foley was tasked with finding a way to incorporate these ideals into his curriculum while continuing to make advances in the students’ learning of English.

“It was tricky,” said Foley, “because the primary goal of ESOL is to develop the students’ knowledge of English. The trick was to find a way to do that and still incorporate Hawaiian language, history and culture into the lessons.”

He first presented the idea to his students back in early March, giving them the option to continue the current curriculum and lessons or try their hand at becoming game designers.

Sefita Vaea holds the “Hawaiian Risk” game.

The students chose the latter almost unanimously. The results were recently displayed at the West Maui Senior Center in Lahaina.

Lahainaluna Principal Emily DeCosta said “the students worked very hard on this project, and the results were evident of their success. I was very impressed by what they accomplished.”

According to Foley, the first step involved determining the skill set that each student had and could bring to the table, so that they would get maximum benefit and productivity out of each “game group.”

Each student was tested as to his or her skill in art, reading, manual dexterity and creative thinking. Seniors in the class were chosen as group leaders.

The next steps involved developing a game idea; creating a rule book, board and pieces; making decorations; play-testing; and finally, tweaking each game to get the maximum playability and cultural impact out of it.

For example, the “Hawaiian Risk” game was set in 1810, and the theme involved the unification of the islands under King Kamehameha the Great. The mechanics involved each player choosing one of the six kings involved in the struggle, each of which had a different ability within the game.

“We gave a couple of short lessons on what makes a good game, as well as how we could incorporate Hawaiian-based themes into them,” said Foley. “I think the results speak for themselves.”

The groups developed numerous games, such as a Hawaiian version of checkers complete with traditional Hawaiian designs and an overlay of the islands on the game board. All of this was done by hand.

Other games developed were a version of “Chutes and Ladders” featuring Mount Ball and a Maui outrigger canoe racing game.

The Hawaiian version of Hasbro’s “Risk” won Foley’s award for the most attractive game, with checkers placing a close second.

Other games created included a “Hawaii vs. Mexico Dots” game, and a Hawaiian language version of Senet – an ancient Egyptian game played by the pharaohs of Egypt.

It was done all in Hawaiian language, though the rules booklet was in English. For example, one space on the board called “The House of Water” in the Egyptian version became “Ka Hale Wai” in the Hawaiian version.

“The students who contributed the most to this project deserve recognition,” said Foley. They are Trinh Bui Nguyen, Eugene Bumagat, Jorielle Diaz, Allan Jay Fontanos, Regiena Galano, April Joy Agustin, Cesar Lerma Rodriguez, Araceli Lopez, Rowena Lucina, Richard Padua, Christian Pascua, Juliemay Peralta, Alexis Ramos, Fritzy Ann Ruiz, Christian Salibad, Jerick Santos, John Jake and John Jhay Tajadao, and Sefita Vaea.