A Cultural Foundation
The words aloha (love, respect, honor) and ʻāina (land, lit., “that which nourishes”) are the heart and soul of Hawaiian culture. Memories of family pāʻina (parties), backyard jam sessions late into the night, spending time with grandma and grandpa and sunny days working in a loʻi, mud squishing between your toes—these are just some of the things that might come to mind. Imagine the power of two simple words to say so much. But what do they mean?
The Spirit of Aloha ‘Āina
Aloha ʻāina brings an understanding and perspective that shapes everything we do. Its spirit and essence begin with lōkahi or the sense of being connected to all things. Kupuna Malia Craver speaks of aloha as a ‘triangleʻ of relationships between us as individuals and the creator/s and our ancestors (ke akua, nā akua, nā kūpuna), humanity (as caretakers), and creation (ʻāina, kai, lani). This mutuality between all things exists on many levels: spiritual, social, and the scientific.
The spirit and essence of aloha ʻāina invites each of us into the practice of love and respect within the “lōkahi-triangle.” This idea can be seen in the Hawaiian word hoʻomaʻamaʻa. It means to grow in familiarity with a person, place or idea. This practice must be holistic affecting every corner of the triangle. To look at the ʻāina as just a science project without growing in its spiritual dimension is like needing glasses for reading but choosing not to wear them! At the same time, the benefits of the ʻāina are for those who come with the proper mindset from kindergartener to kupuna!
How can we grow in our understanding of aloha ʻāina, lōkahi and hoʻomaʻamaʻa? How would it shape our lives in ways that are meaningful? What source/sources might help us discover and understand these foundational elements? Words like ʻike, (knowledge) and aʻo, (to teach or learn) are good labels, but what are the sources of our learning?
Nā Kumupaʻa: The Sources
Puke: Written Things
Sources that help in understanding the concept and practice of aloha ʻāina are books and curricula like the one you’re reading. The standard works, both Hawaiian and western, play an important part. They also represent the partnering of two cultures. Yet these materials, though they enhance, cannot take the place of keʻala kahiko, the ancient way.
ʻOhana and Moʻolelo: Family Knowledge
It is hard to separate the two sources ʻOhana/Moʻolelo and Wahi Pana since neither can exist without the other when we speak of our ancient Hawaiian culture. ʻIke and aʻo grow from the context of ʻohana (family). For generations, from time immemorial, the relationship between the people and the sky, the land and sea, has been remembered and passed down within families. The meaning of the word moʻolelo (foundational story) comes from the word moʻo, often a reference to a person’s family lineage or genealogy.
Knowledge of fishing patterns connected to the moon’s (Hina) cycle, the planting of crops linked to the movement of the sun (lā)—families perpetuated these understandings. Many still do. At the same time, ʻike and aʻo, though they agree on major points of culture, can vary from family to family and region to region. Oʻahu, Kauaʻi and Niʻihau were unique from the southern islands in many ways. We must keep this in mind when we speak of ʻHawaiian cultureʻ. Like this curricula, Hawaiʻi always embraced different, and often, innovative ways. This too is a reflection of aloha ʻāina.
Wahi Pana: Sacred Land
We must keep our eyes on the land! As the most isolated pae ʻāina or archipelago on planet Earth, Hawaiʻi stands out in many ways. The world comes here! Most would agree that its people, its style; even its smells are beyond compare. “Land of Aloha!” We also use the words wahi pana to remind ourselves that the land is not just a resource; it is sacred, it is family. This too is foundational to understanding and experiencing aloha ʻāina.
ʻĀina – that which nourishes -encompasses land, ocean, heavens, land-based water systems, plants and animals. Aloha ʻāina is a way of life that is evident in Hawaiian practices such as:
• Treating land as a family member
• Showing reverence and respect for all life forms and asking permission to take from the environment
• Taking from the ʻāina only what is needed, and using what is taken
• Living with nature’s cycles by refraining from harvesting during spawning cycles of marine life, and planting, fishing or harvesting by phases of the moon
• Practicing protocol such as oli (chant) when visiting sites
Shaping the future while preserving a heritage, Project Aloha ʻĀina is working to provide Hawaiʻi’s youth with culturally relevant curricula to inspire them to embrace aloha ʻāina as a way of life. This educational project fosters foundational learning experiences that reflect Native Hawaiian culture and core values. A major goal of the project is to inspire Hawaiʻi’s youth to excel in science, math, social studies and language arts standards and to care for resources within their ahupuaʻa (land division).
The lessons provided in each unit encourage students to explore their individual relationship to the ʻāina and ways that they can care for the place where they live. This multidisciplinary journey will take them through readings, reflections in writing, interviews with kūpuna (elders), creative collaborative projects, problem solving in math and science, and investigations in their ahupuaʻa. Getting to know the place where they live and giving back to that place in a meaningful way through community service, are essential elements for students participating in Project Aloha ʻĀina.
All of the lessons are designed to help students meet selected Hawaiʻi Content and Performance Standards developed by the Department of Education, as well as Nā Honua Mauli Ola, Hawaiʻi Guidelines for Culturally Healthy and Responsive Learning Environments, developed by the Native Hawaiian Education Council in partnership with Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, Univeristy of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. Hawaiʻi DOE General Learner Outcomes (GLOs) are also addressed in students’ culminating projects.
The units in this teacher’s guide are designed thematically and support integrated project-based learning that is anchored in the core curriculum. The units immerse students in scientific inquiry and into related social studies explorations. Math and language arts skills are incorporated as a means for students to interpret and express their findings.
To begin their Aloha ʻĀina journey, students are provided with a “map” to guide their way in the form of a Student Assessment Overview. This document, which is provided in each Unit Introduction, lays out the individual and culminating group projects for students along with the standards that they will be striving to achieve. Students are given this document at the beginning of the unit so that they can chart their course and keep track of their progress as they journey through the lessons. Suggestions for students’ culminating projects are provided in the unit, however the form of those projects is left up to the creativity of the students.
The units employ formative assessments within each of the lessons and summative assessments at the end of the unit. The formative assessments are labeled as Learning Log sheets at the elementary and intermediate level and Journal sheets at the high school level. These sheets may be kept by each student in his or her own Learning Log or Journal. Two summative assessment tools are provided with the unit: 1) the culminating project rubrics, and 2) a pre- and post-test, which is designed to guide instruction and assess each student’s gains. These tests were developed in cooperation with the Hawaiʻi Department of Education as a means of helping students to reach standard benchmarks.
To enable students to learn about the many aspects of their local environment, the Aloha ʻĀina team worked with teachers and administrators to map out a Grades 3-12 program of exploration that covers different environments and practices. The units were originally developed for the Kāneʻohe ahupuaʻa on windward Oʻahu. During the course of the project, the Grade 3 unit was also adapted for use on Molokaʻi, and the Grade 9 unit was adapted for Hāna, Maui. These adaptations include locally relevant readings, presentations, and background information for teachers. Additional units focusing on a local stream exploration and gardening for Grades 7 – 8 were also written in collaboration with the Waipā Foundation in Hanalei, Kauaʻi. As the team has discovered, each of the original units provides a template that can be readily adapted to other island locations.