We have celebrated some major milestones in Hawaiian language and education these past few years. The Pukui and Elbert dictionary celebrated its 60th anniversary, Pūnana Leo turned 35 and the kula kaiapuni turned 30. Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani, College of Hawaiian Language at UH–Hilo, has been around for 20 years, and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i has been an official language of the state for the last 40 years.

Yet kumu, mākua and haumāna alike know that there is always further to go. One area that our kula still need a lot of help with is in the creation of Hawaiian culture-based educational materials. Kula either have to translate or adapt existing curricula from other cultural contexts or create their own from scratch, and each approach has challenges in terms of the amount of time and work needed to make usable curricular materials.

Photo: Kumukahi website
The bilingual Kumukahi website offers interactive video and text for elementary school keiki. Image: Kumukahi.org

Kamehameha Schools, through its publishing arm Kamehameha Publishing, has joined with other organizations and community members to create two new bilingual culture- and language-based resources to help meet this need: Kumukahi, an online interactive video and text resource, and Pāhana ‘āina Lupalupa, a series of 40 new Hawaiian place-based science readers.

For decades, the textbooks shared with our ‘ōpio about Hawaiian history and culture tended to present our lāhui, our ‘ike, and our nohona as things of the past. Kumukahi (www.kumukahi.org) is an online resource meant to be a living, breathing textbook aimed at our elementary school keiki, to have them engage with Hawaiian culture, practice and mo‘olelo that are set within this current time – beautifully vibrant and alive!

Photo: Students in class
Students from Blanche Pope Elementary School’s BE Team, from Waimānalo, O‘ahu. – Image: Kumukahi.org

It covers over 60 topics – from ahupua‘a to ‘ai pono, loina to lāhui, mo‘olelo to mo‘okū‘auhau – in a way that makes culture accessible and fun. Each topic features a video of a cultural practitioner, kama‘āina, kumu or kupuna connected with the topic, such as Kaleikoa Kā‘eo, Hiapo Perreira, Kainani Kahaunaele, Kekuhi Kanahele and many more. Kumukahi also features printable short articles in both English and Hawaiian for each topic, and helpful supplemental materials such as guiding questions and vocabulary lists.

Kamehameha Publishing put in eight years of work gathering the video interviews, researching and crafting the essays, and making it all accessible via kumukahi.org, and the amount of effort is apparent in the results. Kumukahi has been targeted for an upper elementary school audience, but the breadth of topics and level of research ensures that everyone can learn something from it.

The second resource is Pāhana ‘āina Lupalupa, a series of 40 Hawaiian culture-based science readers for K–3, and that too came from the work of many, many hands. Hale Kuamo‘o, the Hawaiian Language Center within Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani at UH–Hilo, Ka ‘Umeke Kā‘eo Charter School, and Kamehameha Schools’ Ho‘olaukoa, Kealapono, and Kamehameha Publishing units all were significant contributors to the project – along with kumu, curriculum specialists, and science and cultural experts from across the pae ‘āina.

These readers ground environmental and science learning in specific ‘āina and align cultural ‘ike with national science and literacy standards, creating a fun and engaging system for readers of various skill levels. Readers are taken all over our beloved Hawai‘i, from the kāheka to loko i‘a like Kaloko, to the rivers and streams of Nā Wai ‘Ehā and the forests of Maunakea.

Oftentimes this kind of curriculum is written in English first and then translated into Hawaiian. But with the caliber of the partners involved, the readers were written in Hawaiian first. Only once the Hawaiian was set and tested did they translate the readers into English.

During the process of developing these innovative new books, they were piloted in Hawaiian-focused charter schools, DOE kula kaiapuni (immersion schools), and Kamehameha campuses. This year alone, 40,000 new Pāhana ‘āina Lupalupa readers were distributed directly to more than 400 classrooms. Plans are in the works for a second phase of distribution this coming fiscal year.

One of the most powerful aspects of creating these two resources was the collaboration that took place. The projects leveraged the different strengths and disciplines of collaborators, from institutions dedicated to Hawaiian education or spreading ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i into new contexts to the deep ‘ike held by those in our communities. The different kuleana that each partner carried ensured that these projects went further and deeper than had even been envisioned, and Kamehameha Publishing hopes to continue to use this fruitful collaborative approach to create even more resources in the future.

So whether you are an elementary school haumāna or a curious makua or kupuna, go to the Kamehameha Publishing website (www.kamehamehapublishing.org/) or Kumukahi (www.kumukahi.org) to learn more about our ‘āina or to experience more of our living culture.