ʻIao Valley, Maui – The majestic Nā Wai ʻEhā, or West Maui Mountain Range, is home to a school unique for its integration of indigenous knowledge with conventional academics. Ke Kula ʻo Piʻilani is a Hawaiian immersion private school grounded in the language, values, and wisdom of Mauiʻs aboriginal culture. Traditional Hawaiian wisdom in the context of core classes strengthens lessons for sustainable island living,  promotes community resilience, and builds capacity in all our learners to care for one another and for our environment. Lead instructor, Kumu Kehani Guerrero, a veteran of immersion education and a traditionally-trained kumu hula, shares, “Our program is built upon an ʻāina-based educational model that fosters an elegant and much-needed  balance between students and their relationship to the elements of life that surround  them.”

Teachers at Ke Kula ʻo Piʻilani collaborate closely with Hawaiian cultural practitioners to design and implement this specialized style of an integrated curriculum. The innovative coupling of school teachers and practitioners increases cultural competence while sharpening academic skills. Every morning, students are engaged in academic core classes, including language arts, math, social studies, and science. Every afternoon is dedicated to culture and the arts with classes like Hula (Hawaiian Dance), Mele (Hawaiian Music), Pāheona (Fine Arts), ʻUlana (Weaving), Hānai ʻAi (Farming and Food Prep), Hoʻokele (Navigating Our World), and Mauliola (Health and Wellness). The academic themes resonate into the practitioner-led courses and vice-versa. Francesca Cipro, mother of a five-year student and Hui Mākua ʻo Piʻilani representative says, “I can see my childʻs connection with the elements and her environment grow week-by-week and year-by-year because of the experiential learning opportunities provided by the school,” adding, “our parent support group strives to create parallel learning experiences for the whole family.”

The collaboration of students, families, teachers, practitioners, and community contributors is an exciting model of learning. Board president, Bryce Thayer, is an integral part of the continuity and success of our program. “What excites me about Ke Kula ‘o Piʻilani is that the kids have so much opportunity to take learning out of the classroom and academia and into the real world. Our K-5 predominantly uses nature and Hawaiian culture to achieve this but as we grow into upper-grade levels, students will venture out more into the community and into business and politics. It’s an exciting  time to be rethinking how we deliver education to our future leaders.”

To learn more about this unique school, visit kekulaopiilani.com.