After-school programs may be sparse on the North Shore, but a group of organizations — Hanalei Watershed Hui, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resource — is working together to change that. Their latest effort is the new Ahupuaa Explorations after-school and summer program that will help fifthand sixth-graders learn about proper stewardship of the aina.
“It’s an effort to teach our youths about their place,” says Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana of Hanalei Watershed Hui.
The first program will run from Jan. 12 to May 31 and meet each Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Hale Halawai in Hanalei. A number of categories will be covered, including navigation, mapping, Hawaiian language, weather, wetland birds and medicinal plants. Each week the focus is on a different topic, such as ahupuaa, and will involve lessons with expert guest teachers and activities, including a visit to Limahuli Garden and Preserve.
“The idea is to bring expertise and skills to the youths that they don’t ordinarily have access to — to teach our youths all the possibilities, the things they need to know about their place, and those skills that might translate into a job,” says Ka‘aumoana.
Keiki don’t always learn these lessons in school “because the teachers are strapped just trying to give the basic information they are required to,” says Ka‘aumoana. “We’re trying to fill in some of the gaps a nd pukas that we think kids need.”
The program is an opportunity for keiki to become more informed about their community and learn how to tackle issues like rising sea levels and climate change.
Besides the wealth of information, what makes the program, funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Bay Watershed Education and Training Grant, even more attractive is that it’s entirely free of charge.
“For me, the most exciting part about this is being able to honor this community by bringing an opportunity like this — to say we care enough and you’re important enough, and that we care about your children, and we’re willing to spend the time and energy and support and expertise to care about the them and this place,” says Ka‘aumoana.
Kumu Meryl “Mele” Abrams, Ahupuaa Explorations’ primary instructor, is looking forward to being involved in the inaugural program.
“I find it so exciting to teach kids, and this is such a wonderful age of children — they’re still really connected to their place,” she says.
Brendon Kitch, who will serve as Abrams’ assistant instructor, agrees.
“It’s an age group that they can have empathy for everything, and the information is more exciting and engaging for them,” he says.
The well-spoken 18-year-old believes the curriculum will be highly beneficial to keiki because it will help them better understand the natural world they live in, which will come in handy the rest of their lives.
“This is a great program,” adds Kitch, who has volunteered as an assistant teacher several years at Kilauea School. “And also it’s really fun, so I think they’ll learn a lot more and keep it with them.”
Kitch displays enthusiasm and a willingness to share the subject matter with kids.
“He’s just beginning to think about what he wants to do in his life and his future,” says Ka‘aumoana of Kitch. “He’s a fabulous educator and reminds us of a younger perspective.”
One modern perspective the workshop will address is an updated disaster-resilience plan that accounts for the current community. It will inform keiki about how to be more resilient, how to adjust and how to bounce back when emergency strikes.