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Episode 51: The power of the land to teach with Ku Kahakalau

Ku Kahakalau is a celebrated Hawaiian educator and a firm believer in the power of the land to teach. Driven by that conviction, in the 1990s she began leading month-long immersion camps in Waipi?o Valley to link students to the ??ina in a very real way.

“The model that we have developed is a model where the youth are directly put in contact with the land because one of the awesome things about the ??ina is that it does not discriminate. It functions according to the reciprocal law of aloha—so if you love the land, the land will love you back.”

The results of spending time close to the land were immediate and powerful. At the end of the month, Kahakalau saw physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual changes in her students, and in some she witnessed transformations she describes as miraculous.

“One young man comes to mind, he was very shy, very introverted, and very unhappy. As this young man watched this food growing pretty much right in front of his eyes, we just saw the changes in him from one day to the next. A month later this young man is standing on our stage with only a malo on, proud and strong, chanting in Hawaiian. And his mom, I remember the tears, it was just a waterfall coming out of her eyes because she couldn’t recognize her own son.”

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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