All in the ʻOhana


Papahana Kuaola’s Nā Leo Makamae project targets the family to support and enhance the use of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi at home

ʻIke aku, ʻike mai. Kōkua aku, kōkua mai.
Pēlā ka nohana ʻohana.
Watch, observe. Help others and accept help.
That is the family way.

The goal is the perpetuation and normalization of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in the home. And the whole family is invited to class.

Located in the ʻili of Waipao, within the ahupuaʻa of Heʻeia, in the Koʻolaupoko region of Oʻahu, Papahana Kuaola is an aloha ʻāina-based educational organization connecting our past with a sustainable future. The nonprofit’s mission is to cultivate ʻāina and kānaka to nurture learning, relationships, and lifestyles that enable all Hawaiʻi to thrive.

A nearly $85,000 grant from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is currently supporting the nonprofit’s Nā Leo Makamae project, which is offering onsite Hawaiian language instruction to 10 families who were interviewed and selected to participate.

Photo: Iwalani Dalrymple with her keiki
Iwalani Dalrymple reads at home with her keiki, Kahiau.

The one-year program involves weekly in-person sessions that focus on identifying key language patterns that mākua are likely to use when speaking with their keiki at home. By identifying these patterns, the program aims to support and enhance the use of the Hawaiian language within the family environment.

To promote the normalization of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi within the homes of participating families, the program encourages the involvement of kūpuna in the classes. Older keiki, typically middle school-aged and above, participate in the lessons alongside their parents.

Separate activities and lessons are provided for the younger keiki, typically elementary-aged and below, which correspond to the lessons taught to their parents. These activities and lessons are held in a separate location to cater to the specific needs and age groups of the younger children.

“This approach creates a supportive and inclusive environment for the entire ʻohana to learn and utilize the Hawaiian language,” said Keoua Nelsen, a special projects manager for Papahana Kuaola. “By targeting a multi-generational approach, the advantage is that the entire family can practice and utilize the language together. The ultimate hope and goal of the program is to normalize the use of ōlelo Hawaiʻi in their everyday lives.”

Ma hea lā ‘o Spot?
Books like “Ma hea lā ‘o Spot?” are valuable tools for reinforcing the pepeke henua (locative sentence pattern) in an engaging manner.

In Nā Leo Makamae, each ʻohana is provided with a set of manipulatives – or objects – as well as books, flashcards, and other resources, to engage and work with their children at home. The program features the Ke Alelo Matua method, inspired by the Kealaleo (a language learning method developed by Kumu Ipolani Vaughan) and Te Aatarangi, a method from Aotearoa, both of which utilize Cuisenaire rods and other manipulatives to teach language patterns to mākua. Simultaneously, corresponding lessons are taught to the keiki to reinforce these patterns outside of the classroom.

“Additionally, the program utilizes a social learning app called Unrulr, which serves as a digital journal. Through this app, families can document their language learning journey and track their progress,” Nelsen said. “They can also capture moments of their ʻohana using the Hawaiian language and share their experiences with other participating families. Instructors can use the app to pose questions for the families to respond to, further engaging and reinforcing the language lessons taught in the program.

“There is a dedicated group of 10 families here who are making good progress in learning ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. Papahana Kuaola has supported their continued learning and use of the language by establishing a Hawaiian book collection that the families can borrow from. Additionally, Nā Leo Makamae has purchased books and learning resources for the families to establish their own collection of Hawaiian language books.

“Some of the children from these families attend the same elementary school, and their parents have shared that their children discuss, plan, and confirm their attendance at Papahana Kuaola for language classes. The families have also provided us feedback reiterating the importance of Nā Leo Makamae to their overall language learning journey,” Nelsen said.

“This gathering place we come to learn at has become a place we look forward to coming to weekly. We look forward to seeing the same ʻohana and our kumu. My keiki love to be here and express their joy and wanting to be here to me,” said Alana Fuller-Tanaka. Her spouse, Darron Olson, daughters Ilihia and ʻIolana Olson, and kupuna Alvin Tanaka are all participating in the program.

“There’s a sense of building a community where we can learn and practice Hawaiian language. There’s beginning to be a feeling of that unity and building of relationships. All of this creates a safe learning environment and a wanting to be here. Coming here has been a great routine for me and my family.”

Chelsie Kahealani Miller is participating in the program along with her husband, Rob Haʻaheo Miller, and their four sons: Laʻakea, Hokupaʻa, Keaolewa and ʻĀloʻiloʻi. “Our ʻohana has highly benefited from Nā Leo Makamae. We’re able to bring ʻōlelo into our home in the most practical ways. Knowing how to give our children commands and ask them questions that we usually ask them every day has made ʻōlelo more of a necessity in our conversations,” she said.

“As I go through my day, I usually make note of what questions or commands I don’t know how to ʻōlelo so I can ask our kumu during the next session. Sharing knowledge and connecting with other ʻohana has also been a big benefit for us. We’re able to relate to other ʻohana’s journeys in our mutual goal of learning and using more ʻōlelo in our daily lives.”