Making Hokule‘a Relevant To Keiki

Hokule‘a crewmember Maui Tauotaha has fond memories of Kawaiahao Church School in Kakaako. It was more than 25 years ago when he and his sister Tatiana attended Kawaiahao, and although he left in third grade, he’s maintained his ties ever since.

“My sister and I grew up there, and we have beautiful memories of the school,” says the 35-year-old Tauotaha, who went on to attend Punahou School. “Great memories, and there’s still a powerful connection.”

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Hokupa‘a aboard Hokule‘a PHOTO COURTESY MAUI TAUOTAHA

And memories are still being made.

When Tauotaha was selected to join Hokule‘a’s crew, he adopted his childhood school to come along with him for his journey. He also reached out to Lunalilo Elementary School and did the same.

“Each crewmember is asked to engage with a community group or a school to provide a more personal connection with the wa‘a (Hokule‘a and Hikianalia) and the voyage,” explains Tauotaha. “We want to foster that connection with each child, and get them to be more invested and believe that this is their voyage. And that’s what Malama Honua is about. We want the children to feel like they are part of this movement. Sustainability is not a new idea but, hopefully, this worldwide voyage can act as a catalyst or that glue that can bond everyone together.”

But how do you get a young child to relate to such a massive project?

Kawaiahao Church School director Wailani Robins had the perfect idea.

“To make the voyage more relative to our young children, we gave Maui a stuffed animal, a Hawaiian monk seal that we named ‘Hokupa‘a,’ which means ‘North Star,'” says Robins. “Maui takes Hokupa‘a with him and takes pictures wherever he goes, and then shares those pictures and stories when he comes back home.”

Since leaving Hawaii island, Hokupa‘a has been to Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand. Tauotaha jokingly says Hokupa‘a has spent more time on Hokule‘a than any other crewmember.

“Hokupa‘a was Wailani’s idea, and when the students at Lunalilo heard about Hokupa‘a, they gave me their own little stuffed animal,” says Tauotaha. “The Lunalilo students gave me Imiloa, the great seeker, to take with me.”

Robins says students have embraced the voyage and have taken ownership, as well. She credits Tauotaha’s passion for the success of the program.

“When he comes home, he sits with our children and talks about his adventures out at sea,” says Robins. “He has many pictures holding Hokupa‘a and the children love that, especially our young children. They look forward to seeing Hokupa‘a at sea, and we show them on the map where Maui and the crews from Hokule‘a and Hikianalia have visited.”

“When I visit the schools and see the kids and their passion and engagement, it’s heartwarming,” says Tauotaha.

Last month, the school honored Tauotaha for his good work on Hokule‘a and Hikianalia. Robins says it’s their way of saying mahalo.

“We do it every year. We honor people in the community and thank them for what they do,” explains Robins. “Maui has not only given back to our school, but he’s serving all children of Hawaii.”

Tauotaha says he was blown away by the assembly at his “old school,” and adds that crewmembers want more children to be a part of the movement.

“Whatever it takes to engage the community, especially the children because we need them to continue the work,” says Tauotaha. “There’s much to be done, and the best investment we can make is in our children. They are our future. This is why this voyage exists, so that they can take the reins and share the message: Come join us and help us save our planet.”

rkmizutani@gmail.com