Our Islands, Our Future

Pūlama Collier with her son Kia‘i Collier, a Kula Kaiapuni senior at King Kekaulike High School.

“Our public schools have been a mainstay for maintaining the consciousness of Hawaiian traditions without the community knowing it,” reflects Pūlama Collier, State Resource Teacher with the Department of Education for Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at King Kekaulike High School.

The immersion program on Maui, Kula Kaiapuni, has been an integral part of preserving Hawaiian culture on the island since 1989, when its first Kindergarten class began at Paia School. Today, there are about 220 students participating in Hawaiian language immersion classes at 4 public schools on Maui: Two at the elementary level (Paia School and Princess Nahienaena Elementary in Lahaina); Kalama Intermediate (Makawao); and King Kekaulike High School (Pukalani).

Statewide, there are 26 language immersion sites, with each island and community offering different models. In some cases, on Oahu and the Big Island, whole schools offer Hawaiian language immersion. On Maui, Kula Kaiapuni is “a school within a school”, as Pūlama observes, with certain classes offering instruction in all subjects in the medium of the Hawaiian language. Within the program, English language arts as a subject is introduced at the 5th grade level to ensure bilingual skills. Kula Kaiapuni, mandated by the State Constitution, is offered by the Department of Education to all families that choose it for their children.

Last week, Kula Kaiapuni students from all four Maui school sites participated in Na Mele O Maui, the annual Hawaiian Song and Art competition, held at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. They distinguished themselves by winning either first or second place in the music categories.