Papa Wa‘a: School at Sea

One of the hallmarks that sets Hawaiian culture-based education apart from more standard educational practices is its reliance on culture,ʻāina, and kai-based projects to teach our haumāna everything from ʻōlelo and moʻolelo to physics, chemistry, and math. At Hālau Kū Māna New Century Public Charter School, each grade level is involved in this kind of aloha ʻāina-centered education, giving the students real world knowledge about so many of the things important to us as Hawaiians from the ocean, to the mountains, to voyaging canoes, to traditional crafts, and kalo farming.

The freshman class of Hālau Kū Māna’s entire curriculum revolves around traditional voyaging techniques. This class is known as Papa Wa‘a. Voyaging is the lens through which all of their education that first year of high school is founded upon, and this film Papa Waʻa documents their final test of the year, sailing the ship Makani ʻOlu out and back across the Kaiwi Channel, one of the most challenging channels in the world. Join the haumāna on their 225-mile sail, a voyage that took them past Molokaʻi to Lānaʻi, all the way to Maui, and then back to Kāneʻohe Bay where they started. As they travel across the vast and deep ocean guided by ancestral knowledge passed down through the generations, they will put all of their learning to the test, using it to lead them into the future.

“Before beginning, think about somebody that you aloha and that you would want to bring a smile to their face. That usually brings a good, positive energy into the space, which is essential for food preparation.”

Kaulana Vares, Cultural Specialist, Kamehameha Schools Kapālama