Pūnana Leo West Hawai‘i Schools Offer Unique Learning Opportunities for Keiki

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Pūnana Leo o Waimea and ʻAlo Kēhau o ka ʻĀina Mauna will host the 6th annual Ho‘ōla from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pukalani Stables in Waimea on Sunday, March 17, 2019. This year’s event, “He Wa‘a, He Moku – He Moku, He Wa‘a,” (A Canoe is an Island – An Island is a Canoe) celebrates the Makali‘i, a local, double-hulled sailing canoe and its upcoming voyage to Papahānaumoku. The event will include an ‘Aha Mele concert with Pō and 4 Fathers, Mahina Paishon-Duarte and Keaiwa, silent auction, locally crafted cuisine and cultural workshop classes.

Pūnana Leo Keiki. PC: ‘Aha Pūnana Leo

“We look forward to hosting this event every year to help deepen an understanding and appreciation for Native Hawaiian culture and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i [Hawaiian language],” said Maluhia O’Donnell, Pūnana Leo o Waimea site coordinator. “This year, we’re excited to highlight the Makali‘i and three of its crew members, Pūnana Leo o Waimea alumni, who will be engaging other crew members in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i during the voyage, as part of the organization’s goal to voyage completely in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.”

Having visited the Makali‘i as part of the preschool’s cultural curriculum, Pūnana Leo o Waimea keiki learned about the different parts of the wa‘a (canoe), history of Makali‘i and traditional, non-instrument wayfinding methods of open-ocean voyaging. The keiki then went on to grow vegetables in its māla (garden) to gift to the crew for its upcoming voyage to Papahānaumoku this summer.

In addition to Pūnana Leo o Waimea’s annual Ho‘ōla, each Pūnana Leo preschool site keiki and their ‘ohana (families) also participate in other community events like the Lōkahi Tree Project, Aloha Festivals Waimea Parade, Kā Moku o Keawe Makahiki and Mauna Lani Festival of Trees.


Throughout the year, parents also participate in hui kīpaepae weekly language and culture classes, lā ‘ohana family days and other activities to reinforce learning ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i at home. Through this comprehensive, family-based approach, keiki learn to speak ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i within just three to four months, while also developing social, intellectual and perceptual motor skills.

“The most powerful gift you can give your child is their mother tongue,” said Pūnana Leo o Kona parent Ka‘ea Yuki Lyons. “Foundation is everything. Responsibility starts now.”

Pūnana Leo o Kona and Waimea are now accepting applications for their Hawaiian Medium Education (HME) preschool programs for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, starting Aug. 5, 2019, through June 19, 2020. Parents may enroll keiki ages two-years and eight-months-old up to six-years old for one of five available openings in Kona or 17 openings in Waimea.


For more information about Pūnana Leo preschools or to apply your keiki, go online. The enrollment deadline is April 15, 2019.

Discounted pre-sale tickets are available for $20 ($30 at the door) and include entry and a meal. Special workshop passes are available for $40 ($50 at the door) and include entry, a meal and access to Ho‘onui‘ike workshops on wayfinding and the star compass, pilina kaula (rope-making) and the relationship of the paniolo (cowboy) and wa‘a (canoe), which are available from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Entry is free for keiki (children) under 14 years old but does not include a meal. For more event information, go online.

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