On the sandy beaches of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on Friday, scores of West Hawaii public, private and home-schooled students got a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s culture and resources.
From hula, fishing lures and lauhala bracelet-making to Hawaiian monk seals, spawning and invasive species education, the park’s eighth annual Hawaiian Cultural Festival provided students one-of-kind, hands-on learning of the basics. There were also a few interesting tidbits that surprised many of the students like the fact uhu, or parrot fish, can change gender to balance an ecosystem or that sharks have ears capable of picking up sound from a quarter-mile away.
For Teah Van Bergen, a 12-year-old Kailua-Kona home-schooled student, taking part in the event provides a great opportunity to learn about culture and science in the area. It also supplements her and her 10-year-old brother, Kai’s, home-school education.
“We take every opportunity for a field trip — this is our Hawaiian studies,” she said. “It’s better to have people who know what they are talking about telling you the information. This is so much better than a book.”
More than 250 students from Kahakai, Holualoa and Honaunau elementary schools; Kona Christian Academy; as well as children instructed at home traveled to the national park to supplement what they have learned about Hawaii’s cultural history in class this year with interactive learning on the beach. On Thursday, between 250 and 260 students visited the beach for the festival.
Students attending the festival also witnessed the beginning of makahiki season, which celebrates the new harvest and Lono, the Hawaiian god of agriculture, said Wayne Takemoto, a cultural practitioner who volunteered his time to teach the pupils.
Providing the students a different example of makahiki, Takemoto compared the season, loosely, to various autumn harvest festivals around the world.
“Makahiki is a time that all war was stopped, all politics was stopped — everything was stopped because it was the time the farmers and fishermen gave their harvest to the ahu, or altar, for Lono,” he said. “This is a time to celebrate Lono.”
The event is made possible by the park, which funds the students’ transportation to and from the event, as well as a $2,500 grant from the nonprofit Hawaii Pacific Parks Association that helped cover costs for lunches, T-shirts and other items, said Park Ranger Jon Jokiel.
“It’s just a good day outside of the classroom that gives them a hands-on experience,” Jokiel said. “We hope they can remember this place and the culture as they continue through their lives and maybe even inspire a career.”
Kahakai Elementary School fourth-grader Alina Behrendt described the event simply as “great.”
“It’s awesome, I love learning about the turtles and ocean,” she said. “I really love them, and it helps my education.”
For more information on the park, including the various programs it holds, visit nps.gov/kaho/index.htm.