Kupuna Life: Kupuna Component program passes knowledge to Hawaii’s keiki

Kupuna Life

HONOLULU (KHON2) — This may look like an average classroom, but it is not. The Department of Education program Kupuna Component includes a wealth of wisdom that cannot be found in any textbook.

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“It goes beyond only talking to the ears and to the mind,” said Kimo Awai. “Kupuna speak to the heart and to the soul of the child.”

Through the program, kupuna go into more than 100 classrooms statewide to teach keiki from kindergarten through the sixth grade.

“It came to light because of a major concern by kupuna as far as cultural identity was concerned with Hawaii’s children,” Awai said. “The base of it is to become the bridge, the rainbow bridge between Hawaiian culture and western education.”

Students learn everything about the Hawaiian language, history and culture, including farming, fishing and music. Kupuna and keiki play games, sing, tell stories and act.

“I see it as a very valuable thing for our keiki to have, we live in a unique place, unique in all the world, and they need to learn about this very special place that we all live in,” said Tammy Meyers.

Meyers has been a part of the Kupuna Component program at E.B. DeSilva Elementary School in Hilo for the past 20 years and continued to virtually teach during the pandemic.

She says her reward is seeing the bright, happy faces as keiki learn about Hawaii.

“That’s my reward,” Meyers said. “Seeing their eyes light up and connections being made and those feelings just bring me a lot of joy.”

What else is rewarding?

“Even today, when they see me, they go ‘kupuna!’ And they run, kiss me,” said Dorothy Kanani Awai.

The students also remember the main lesson.

“Aloha, aloha, aloha all the time,” said Kimo Awai. “To everyone, everywhere. Aloha can change our destiny. Aloha can change the world.”

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