Posts Tagged ‘education’

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Newspapers – A Boon or Bust

November 30, 2008

When I was little, my mother would gather me upon her knee to read the newspaper with her. Not just the comics, but the whole paper. Hard news, features, recipes, the entire thing.

I learned to read this way. But, more importantly, I learned to think. Many of the beliefs I hold today were formed then – discussing with my mother the meaning of the words we sounded out. As we read about the gas crisis, she explained why it was important to care for our resources and how our actions impact not only ourselves but those around us. She spelled out for me that we live on a small island, and therefore need to be even more considerate of our ‘āina so that it can continue to provide food, clean water and shelter. I am an environmentalist today because of discussions we had when I was five.

As I grew older I learned that our practice of using the newspaper as a learning tool is a family tradition, dating back five generations to a time when Hawai‘i was the most literate nation in the world.

kekumu

In the late 1800s nearly every Hawai‘i adult could read and write. And, they were encouraged to write down everything – stories, myths, blessings and curses, as well as news – and to send them to one of the myriad of Hawaiian language newspapers. These papers were literally the nation’s history.

It was during this heyday of people’s journalism that one of my kupuna began assembling his children to discuss news items. Understanding that the Hawaiian culture and nation were under attack, he used the newspapers to teach his keiki who they were as Hawaiians and how they fit in both the ancient and modern worlds.

Therefore, it is with pride that I carry on this tradition with my child. Just as my mother did before me, I gather my son on my lap and we pour over the day’s news. Recently, we discussed what it means to vote, how to decide which candidate to support, what election topics are important to us and why.

newspaper-1

Imagine my satisfaction as my son made his own decisions on significant issues. When he learned that his teacher and I stood on different sides of the Honolulu rail transit debate, he questioned each of us on why we believe as we do. Taking the gathered input, he made up his own mind.

I couldn’t be more proud. My seven year-old has shown that he will not be a mindless voter. Instead, he will seek out information and deliberate upon it before deciding what is right for him.

If only every voter would follow his example.

Yes, the newspaper has been a wonderful tool, introducing my child to the broader world. But, it has also had its drawbacks.

Now that my son knows how to read, we can no longer skip over unpleasant stories. This weekend’s paper detailing the horrors of Mumbai and the senseless holiday shopping deaths have left both of us with larger questions of life and death and of right and wrong.

I’ve tried to teach my son that people are not bad, but sometimes they do bad things. We can hate actions, but not each other. These distinctions are becoming much harder to preserve as he reads and learns more. And, I’m wondering if I’m doing him a disservice by introducing him to too much too soon.

While I am grateful to my mother and kupuna for giving me the gift of loving newspapers, will my son see this as a gift or a curse?

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Kids Lead the Way to a Greener Hawai‘i

November 17, 2008

We’ve all heard it before. Out of the mouth of babes. Yet, never before had this struck me as so true as when I visited a small dual-language school in urban Honolulu, HI.

Piko

Each day the keiki (children) of Kawaiaha‘o School, aged 18-months to 10-years-old, gather to begin their day with what they call their piko (literally umbilical cord or that which ties them back to their foundation). This daily assembly is a time to gather, greet each other and start the day in the spirit of aloha (love) and lōkahi (unity).

An important part of their piko is a pledge. Not just to one people or one place, but to the entire Earth.

“I pledge allegiance to the earth and to all life that it nourishes – all growing things, all species of animals, and all races of people. I promise to protect all life on our planet, to live in harmony with nature and to share our resources justly – so that all people can live with dignity, in good health and in peace.”

Knowing that reciting and understanding are not necessarily the same thing, their kumu (teachers) work daily with the keiki to deeply instill Aloha ‘Āina – love for the land.

Several years ago, the keiki themselves began re-landscaping their urban campus, planting mainly native plants that encourage the return of native wildlife. Their efforts were recognized when the nation’s largest member-supported conservation group, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), named them the first school in Hawai‘i to achieve certification as a NWF Schoolyard Habitat.

NWF story

honoluluadvertiser

Click to see full article

Following upon the success of their native garden, the keiki instituted a full school recycling and composting program. The children began collecting and recycling paper, glass, aluminum, plastic and used ink cartridges. Today, their collections go far beyond the school campus. Families, friends and neighboring businesses are all encouraged to work with the keiki to ensure recyclables do not go to the landfill. The children also enlisted teachers and parents to help build composting bins so that biodegradable refuse could be used in their native garden. Their goal is to create a zero-waste school.

Moanalua Garden Award

Click to see full article

These and other efforts brought them to the attention of one of Hawaii’s best known education non-profits, The Moanalua Gardens Foundation. In 2008, the Foundation awarded the school with their 2007 Hawai‘i Needs Care Award.

However, even with such praise, the keiki felt their efforts needed to expand beyond their immediate sphere. “We do a lot for ourselves, but we need to help other people, too,” shared second-grader Kealoha Garvin.

Taking this to heart, the children found that even small actions can help in big ways. After learning about suffering children in the Azawak in Niger – the world’s most drought ridden area – the Kawaiaha‘o keiki chose to create a program called Ka Wai Ola – the water of life. As a part of this project, the keiki sell green products with 100% of the proceeds going to dig deepwater wells in Africa. Their first item, a reusable grocery bag, sold out in less than a month. Their second item, a larger reusable bag, will be available in a few days.

kgmb-story

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The keiki also created an earth-friendly cleanser and bug spray. Using only natural, non-toxic materials, the children researched how to create products that are both green and effective. They also researched how to market their products – from branding and packaging to sales, they are using their gained knowledge to better our community.

cleanser

Another effort the keiki have undertaken is to help other children become environmental leaders. They wrote and produced a public service announcement encouraging other schools to establish recycling programs. The resulting PSA was created in conjunction with a local non-profit, The Lex Brodie Foundation and the City & County of Honolulu.

Indeed, the children of Kawaiaha‘o School are proof that from small things, big things come.