(BIVN) – Students with the West Hawaiʻi Explorations Academy are taking part in the Keauhou Canoe Club’s Na Mea Kupaianaha, or “discovery of wondrous or amazing things,” a monthly program that shares Hawaiian culture, fitness and fun through the sport of outrigger canoe paddling.
“The program intent is to bridge the generation gap by increasing student and adult knowledge, awareness and appreciation for the cultural richness of paddling and the heritage offered by the Keauhou Bay setting,” said KCC Membership Secretary Bill Armer. “The question is ‘which generation is teaching and learning more with the other generation?’”
The program, which started in September and continues through February, is detailed in a recent news release from the Keauhou Canoe Club:
Each monthly session begins with the recitation of a Hawaiian oli (chant) and a cultural presentation led by Noelani Campbell, KCC’s cultural liaison. During this time keiki learn the cultural significance of paddling and key Hawaiian words used in the state’s official team sport. Students also visit Keauhou historic landmarks, such as the birthplace of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) and the Kuamo‘o Battlefield with its Lekeleke Burial Grounds. In addition, students will build a mo‘okauhau (genealogy tree) from a visual mathematics perspective.
Paddling activities are guided by 20 KCC volunteers serving as strokers and steerspeople to assist 40 WHEA eighth graders and instructional staff. WHEA participants are taught a variety of skills—paddle handling, stroking posture and techniques, timing, canoe ettiquette and boating safety. Six- or 12-person canoes are used for paddling and students help with launching and returning canoes to the beach. Fun includes competitive sprints within Keauhou Bay. After the last canoe is securely stowed, the 2.5-hour sessions end with participants gathered around a canoe for a moment of silence and a short Hawaiian language cheer.
WHEA underwrote the $25 registration fee for each student and $125 cost for staff members to join KCC’s Na Mea Kupaianaha and it also gives them full club membership through the program’s duration. WHEA provides student transport to the canoe halau and KCC provides use of paddles, life jackets and canoes. Participating KCC members providing guidance range in age from 40-80 and many have educator and coaching experience. Keiki come prepared to get wet, bring their own towels and lunch to enjoy afterwards.
“I like paddling; it’s fun and definitely a workout,” shares WHEA student Sola Laliberte, while classmate Leo Lenta adds, “it’s good how everyone is working together, synchronizing and stuff.” Commenting on the entire experience, student Kira Matsuoka muses, “it makes you connect with yourself, the ocean, this place and Hawaiian culture.”
KCC’s Na Mea Kupaianaha started by request. Sam Anderson-Moxley of WHEA’s Bridge Year Program—a transition to high school initiative offering real-world challenges to inspire and empower eighth graders—approached club cultural committee and board member Jessie Chambers about the possibility of a partnership with KCC.
“The Bridge Year is all about getting students to learn out in the real world, to experience and engage with their ‘aina, and to participate in outdoor adventures that challenge them to learn and grow in ways they never could while sitting inside a classroom,” explains Anderson-Moxley. “Paddling with KCC gives students the opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience where they learn about history, culture, language, sport and math while also practicing teamwork, collaboration and timing.”
Anderson-Moxley emphasizes the KCC-WHEA partnership enables students to learn from and engage with mentors in the community, not just their teachers, “which is something that is invaluable.”
Chambers, who envisions KCC’s Na Mea Kupaianaha as a re-occurring educational offering for school groups, hopes it will attract local keiki to participate in KCC’s youth program, which includes participating in the summer Moku O Hawai‘i regatta season.
“Our WHEA partnership is allowing us to broaden the base of our on-going youth outreach through the expansion of our cultural, educational and athletic activities,” notes Chambers. “Na Mea Kupaianaha enriches the student experience and ultimately strengthens KCC’s commitment to our youth through the perpetuation of culture-based outrigger paddling.”