Wa`a wisdom

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Students practice knots during the E Lauhoe Wa`a Educator Development Program. (PHOTO BY JAN WIZINOWICH| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Chadd Paishon shares navigation knowledge during the E Lauhoe Wa`a Educator Development Program. (PHOTO BY JAN WIZINOWICH| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Chadd Paishon watches as students prepare Makali’i. (PHOTO BY JAN WIZINOWICH| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Holly Green from Mala’ai Garden at Waimea Middle School explores Mauloa. (PHOTO BY JAN WIZINOWICH| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Student teachers learn the story of Mauloa during the E Lauhoe Wa`a Educator Development Program. (PHOTO BY JAN WIZINOWICH| SPECIAL TO NHN)

Na Kalai Wa`a is opening registration for the second year of E Lauhoe Wa`a Educator Development Program. This program is based on Hawaiian educational philosophy where, “… the best environment to learn in is an intergenerational one that engenders `ohana … ,” according to the group.

Na Kalai Wa`a, celebrating its 20th anniversary this February, was founded by Clay Bertelmann whose vision can be summed up as, “He Wa`a He Moku He Moku He Wa`a.” (The canoe is the island. The island is the canoe.) This has been the vision that has guided Na Kalai Wa`a in developing educational programs grounded in the “uniquely holistic nature of wa`a practices,” which were re-discovered with the maiden voyage of the Hokule`a from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.

Inspired by their voyaging experiences, Clay and Milton “Shorty” Bertelmann wanted to build a canoe for Hawaii Island that would provide both community building and an educational venue. The first canoe, Mauloa, a single hulled koa fishing canoe built using traditional materials, was launched in 1993.

Then in 1995, through the vision of Clay and Shorty Bertelmann and the many hands of the Hawaii Island community, this island’s voyaging canoe, Makali`i, was born. Makali`i was built for the community and by the community, including students from local Waimea classrooms.

During Makali`i’s 1995 maiden voyage to Tahiti and after its return, teachers from Pahoa, Honokaa, Hilo, Waiakea, Konawaena high schools, came together to create canoe based curriculum “… that brought the canoe straight into the classroom, ” according to their information.

This began Makali`i’s educational program that soon expanded to doing trainings for students from across the state and the Pacific, as far away as Japan. What educators began to see was that the canoe provided authentic learning experiences, giving them a framework that could be applied to all aspects of their lives.

After the 2007 voyage, “Ku Holo Mau” to deliver Alingano Maisu to Satawal and Mau Piailug (Papa Mau), who died a few months later, the navigators were aware of the need to set a new course for the canoes, which led to the inception of the World Wide Voyage and also highlighted the need to expand the educational programs. One of those programs is E Lauhoe Wa`a, which evolved from a request by the Waimea Education Hui, made up of school and community educators.

In 2011-2012, Na Kalai Wa`a began exploring possible models and settled on a yearlong program with three, 24-hour sessions, a four-day sail experience and a final ho`ike (presentations) spaced in two month increments.

The Hawaiian word a`o means both to learn and to teach and this is an important aspect of the program’s success. When teachers have a learner’s stance, is when they create magic in the classroom, “… this program was and continues to be one of the most transformational professional and personal development courses I have had the privilege to participate in,” according to Megan Dehning-Learned from Innovations Charter School.

Throughout the year, inspired educators shared “Makali’i magic” with students through a broadened awareness of the natural world and innovative curriculum that made concepts come alive, giving them the confidence that comes from developing skills to solve real-world problems. But at least as important, is that they come to see their classroom as both island and canoe and their classmates as fellow crew members on a voyage of discovery of the interdependence of the natural world in which they find themselves.

One of the main tenants of Hawaiian philosophy is inclusion and, although the program is designated as an educator development program, it is open to anyone who has a true desire to absorb, learn from and to share these special experiences. For more information about Na Kalai Waa, Makali`i and their programs, call 885-9500 or email nakalaiwaa@gmail.com.