‘Navigators’ Enter New School

The newly established Malama Honua Learning Center hopes to create a generation of navigators from its quarters at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Waimanalo.

“The way that we see it, the mind of the navigator is starting at the very center, at the piko, with a compassionate heart and then working outward,” explained Denise Espania, principal of MHLC. From this central position, these budding “navigators” will gain ethical problem-solving skills, adaptability, environmental awareness, strong cultural identity and more.

And in the coming 2014-2015 academic year, 50 students in grades K-2 will be able to set sail on this academic voyage with the budding charter school.

MHLC was founded by Robert Witt of Hawaii Educational Council and Nainoa Thompson of Polynesian Voyaging Society as a way to “rethink” education by imbuing the traditional classroom with the cultural scope demonstrated by Hokule’a on her voyages across the Pacific. This connection with the famed voyaging canoe informs and shapes the school.

A typical school day, Espania said, would be divided into two spheres — the first half devoted to 21st-century skills and Western education. In the afternoon, project-based learning comes first, such a garden project, or building a school tree with art and writing.

Eventually, the children would expand their exploration into the Waimanalo community to find stories to share.

“We want our children to be able to … impact both their community and the global community in a positive way,” she explained.

The school currently awaits final permits to move to the church grounds. Though it will be starting out small, MHLC hopes to one day accommodate grades K-8 and have its own permanent location.

Espania noted that the community, including groups like Queen Liliu’okalani Children’s Center and Hui Malama o Ke Kai, has been supportive of the school’s efforts.

MHLC is still enrolling students on a first-come, first-served basis until it has 50 students. Applications received after that point go on a waiting list.

Digital applications are available by emailing info@malamahonua.org, Physical paperwork can be picked up and dropped off at either QLCC or Hui Malama o Ke Kai.

For more information, visit malamahonua.org.