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Mele Murals Youth Summer Program (Windward, Oʻahu)

The Estria Foundation

Hawai‘i Island, O‘ahu & Virtual


Summer 2023

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"I learned that art is from your mind set" - Student


The Mele Murals program spent five weeks with haumāna from Honolulu, Kāneʻohe and Hawaiʻi island across our three sites. Throughout the summer, we brought keiki and mākua to work in the loʻi, plant food and medicinal plants, hike restored ʻāina, play in streams and drink from sacred springs. Our summer theme of Nā Hōkū made way for creative lessons like making waʻa out of plant materials, using watercolor to illustrate each lunar phase, and imagining constellations with paint.

We set our learning outcomes in the classroom and out on the ‘āina to reflect what surrounds us. We focused on connecting our learners to cultural knowledge they already hold. For our onsite farm program, our haumāna met some learning outcomes with ‘āina murals. The practice of “painting” the land by preparing it for farming, and planting of medicinal plants or food, was designed to honor the restoration of landscape given to us by our kupuna. Our farm ohana works with the flow of kahawai (streams) or pohaku (rocks) to know where the natural balance should be of what is to be cultivated. They shared with our haumāna generational knowledge of planting cycles based on the lunar calendar and water conservation. This connects keiki to cultural tradition and to the needs of our community. After these lessons our learners were given various art mediums to illustrate the plants, landscapes and water cycles that they learned.

We uphold the National Visual Art Standards (NVAS) for elementary aged children by creating space for reflection through cultural traditions and use of multiple art making techniques. Through practicing meditation and kilo (observational reflection), which are foundational aspects of our programming. We made a learning environment for keiki to meditate on mo’olelo, investigate personal ideas and then express themselves through murals.

For our classroom sites, each group of learners explored the mo’olelo of their area with stories and history. They visited cultural sites and spent time meditating in nature. Our haumāna were also challenged to kilo every day as a way to practice a type of meditation and emotional regulation. Our classroom curriculum met NVAS through imaginative play, creative thinking and exploration. In one project learners sculpted and painted planets then mapped each within a solar system in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. We are also normalizing language in a contemporary setting and encouraging haumāna to be more confident in their pronunciation.

The Mele Murals summer program worked in service of DOE’s Na Hopena Aʻo learning outcomes in the perpetuation of each learner’s sense of belonging, responsibility, total well-being and their sense of Hawaiʻi in every lesson. The malama ʻāina aspect of our program was pivotal in facilitating a sense of aloha and excellence in keiki. We hold our hui to a belief that respect is passed individually, communally and environmentally. By remembering this, we can aloha with art.

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