Summer classes offer kids insight to native island culture

Living in Sherwood, an ocean away from his homeland in Hawaii, Kaleo Pahukula had been imagining ways to bring his children closer to their Hawaiian heritage.

After growing up in Hawaii and leaving the islands to study biology in Forest Grove, Pahukula earned his master's degree in education from Texas Christian University. He married a woman from Portland and the couple moved to Sherwood to raise their three children.

Since then, Pahukula has worked as a middle school science teacher and school administrator in schools throughout Hillsboro for 15 years. As an educator, he worried his kids were missing out on an important piece of their cultural roots.

“With three kids at the school-age point, I wanted to give them an opportunity to learn about their culture, which they don’t get in their public school education,” said Pahukula.

This concept brewed in Pahukula’s mind for a number of years. His thoughts expanded into teaching other children with island connections and even non-Hawaiians who could benefit from the exposure and come away with a broader understanding of the world.

So when his daughter’s school Hula-Helau class lead him to link up with the KIAKO Foundation, a non-profit based in Aloha with a similar mission to share and educate people about Hawaiian culture, Pahukula’s plan for a focused Hawaiian culture curriculum started coming together.

Three years later, Pahukula, now KIAKO Foundation vice president, is excited to announce the first year of Ho'omoana 2012, a three-day Hawaiian cultural summer camp for first- through sixth-grade keiki (children).

Ho'omoana means camp in Hawaiian. “It’s an opportunity to help people share, understand and learn about Hawaiian culture,” said Pahukula, the camp director. “We are extremely excited about it.”

Open to all youth, not just those with Hawaaiian connections, boys and girls will experience the richness of island culture through Hawaiian art, language, music (ukulele), hula and games.

Kids will be paired with a mix of native teachers and non-native Hawaiian experts during the camp. Classes begin each morning at 9 a.m. at Patterson Elementary School in Hillsboro with language lessons, where kids, divided by grade level, will learn basic Hawaiian greetings and conversation. The rest of the day is made up of 45-minute sessions in each activity until classes end at 1 p.m.

The summer camp is partnering with Pacific University’s Hawaiian club advisor, Edna Gehring, who is providing resources and materials and locating teachers for the camp.

“Hawaii is a popular vacation destination,” said Pahukula, “but I don’t know how much culture people pick up when they go.”

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