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Integration of the Hawaiian culture

By Staff | Mar 22, 2012

Maui Preparatory Academy middle school students participated in the 600-year-old Molokai Makahiki games as the guest of Aka‘ula School.

NAPILI – One of Maui Prep’s core values is the acceptance and appreciation of the differences of others. The understanding and appreciation of all peoples is a critical piece of our school culture and ethos as we celebrate the enormous diversity of our community and the amazing land upon which our campus is located.

As a school, Maui Prep has worked hard at integrating and weaving the Hawaiian culture into our school curriculum and the life of our ‘ohana. Starting with our blessing of the campus and land by Clifford Nae’ole; lei-making and cultural lesson by Sila Kina; the Kina family in the official acceptance of our deed from Maui Land and Pineapple; and Kahu David Kapaku presiding at graduations and providing amazing details on physical features of our campus and the Pu’u Kukui lands from Kaanapali to Honolua.

Several weeks ago, our middle school students participated in the 600-year-old Molokai Makahiki games as the guest of the Aka’ula School. We value our six-year relationship with this small independent school through exchanges and community service. As part of the preparations, all of our middle schoolers participated in competition in each of the Makahiki events.

Over the three days of our visit, the students practiced the entry and ceremonial chants under the direction of Niel Thompson. For the first time, one of our students placed first in ulumaika, a traditional lawn bowling event.

Maui Prep has a “waka” fishing canoe created by master carver Hector Busby and a team of Maori carvers at the Lahaina International Festival of Canoes in 2006. The 55-foot abizia (silkwood) canoe weighs nearly three tons and seats 20 paddlers. Hector, a voyager who has crossed the Pacific using only the stars for navigation, is noted for being a mentor to Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Hector has visited our campus to give our students an understanding of the importance of the canoe to all the cultures of the Pacific and how star navigation played an important part in the settling of the Hawaiian Islands. Our campus is also blessed with a traditional hale built in 2008. The hale has lashings called pueo on the interior of this thatched structure, which was the work and gift of Francis Senenci, master craftsman and hale builder. Francis spent numerous hours putting the hale in place and explaining the intricate work and tradition of the construction process.

Niel Thompson is heavily involved in presenting our Hawaiiana curriculum and preparing our students in grades preschool through eighth grade for our traditional May Day event throughout the year. The students are exposed to the relationships of the people to the ‘aina, dependence on management of resources, richness and weaving of beliefs into daily life and ceremony. Our students are exposed to and practice crafts linked to the ways and wisdom of Hawaiians. Our May Day is a celebration of culture with a traditional king and queen, court with attendants, prince and princess from every island, and performances of chants, songs and dance by each of our grade levels. As an integral part of our music program, all of our fourth and fifth grade students learn the ukulele and perform numbers during the event. The highlight of the day is the hula performed by our eighth grade queen and a hula performance by members of our faculty.

Each Friday, all of our students meet in a Citizen Assembly. This is a celebration of individuals and groups for their service to others. An important part of the assembly is our students singing “Hawai’i Pono’i.” Our fourth- and fifth-graders study the history and culture of Hawaii with a culminating trip by our fifth-graders to Oahu to visit the Bishop Museum, Polynesian Center and Pearl Harbor. Our Hawaiian cultural studies continue in middle and in high school. It is critically important for our students to understand the periods of Hawaiian history; discovery; prehistory; unification under the Kamehamehas; the impact of the Russians, French, British and Americans; the missionary era; the sugar and pineapple dynasties; the end of the monarchy; territory and annexation; statehood; and finally the modern-day sovereignty movement.

Maui Preparatory Academy is a work in progress in making strong connections to the Hawaiian culture for our students and for our entire ‘ohana.