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Mauliola Keʻehi Kaiola Summer Program

Mauliola Keʻehi

Keʻehi, Oʻahu

6-8, 9-12

Summer 2023

click on the image to enlarge


My two sons and my nephew (ages 14 and 12) attended the Kaiola program this June for the first time and absolutely loved it. We had a vague idea about what they would be doing and learning, but it was so much more than the program outline stated. They made new friends, enjoyed swimming in a very beautiful and treasured “secret” spot of Ke’ehi daily, got to learn water and ocean safety, got to kayak, go on the wa’a to the islands nearby, got to visit the Hikianalia, learn how to observe and log marine grid data , learn about manō kihikihi, honor it with a unique and high quality art project with guidance from Uncle Kupihea, a professional artist, and enjoy learning ‘oli and mo’olelo. They are already asking me to sign them up for next summer!!! This will be a beautiful week of explorative learning and growth for your Keiki; a beautiful and unique opportunity that you should let them try! The team of Kumu and leaders there have nothing but love for the Keiki and I feel truly blessed that my kids were surrounded by them for a whole week. Thank you to Kehau and Kupihea, Ku’uipo and Liko and Tihani and all the other volunteers who see this beautiful vision through for our Keiki.
Kehau White Parent of 2 kids in our program


We exposed 24 students to the learning environment of Keʻehi to foster social emotional learning, wellbeing, and community integration. Overall, Keʻehi and our program provides participants with the space and tools to connect with and learn about themselves, which builds social-emotional learning, mental, physical, and cultural wellbeing, and ʻōiwi leadership. Major components of this learning environment such as moʻolelo, the waʻa (canoe) and the papa (reef) and its animals help participants learn about the holistic energy and cycles between us and nature. Being in the waʻa creates a collective synergy that can only happen if the haumana are working together and flowing as one. Experiencing the waʻa also instills cultural pride because participants participate in what their ancestors built and used.

Another component of our program is The Moʻolelo Art Project, we shared the moʻolelo of the shark riders of Keʻehi then they created a 3D clay sculpture of a mano kihikihi ( Hammerhead Shark)  and the waʻa. During the time they were creating the wire base, the haumana were very loud, talking, and having fun, as soon as the time came to put the clay on, it became very silent. We realized they were in a meditative state of deep focus, calm, and relaxed. The feedback from the haumana was very positive we then realized we needed to do this with more students. Art therapy is a form of healing that uses art as a means of communication, self-expression, and self-discovery. It has been shown to have numerous benefits for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Here are some of the benefits of art therapy:

  1. Promotes self-expression: Art therapy allows individuals to express themselves in a safe and non-judgmental environment. This can be especially helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings verbally.

  2. Reduces stress and anxiety: Engaging in art-making can be a relaxing and meditative experience, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

  3. Enhances self-esteem: Creating art can boost self-esteem and self-confidence, particularly for people who struggle with self-expression or self-worth. Art therapy can help individuals to see their own strengths and abilities.

The tactile nature of working with clay is calming and grounding, helping our keiki to regulate their emotions and reduce stress. Additionally, the act of creating something with one's own hands can be empowering, leading to feelings of accomplishment and self-worth.


In terms of social-emotional learning, clay artwork can help our keiki develop important skills such as problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. Working with each other can also promote a sense of community and connectedness.


Overall, clay artwork is a valuable tool for our keiki looking to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Whether it's through individual practice or as part of a larger group, the act of working with clay is a powerful way to promote healing, self-regulation, and social-emotional learning.


24 of our students demonstrated Hawaiian values and ʻōiwi leadership.

More specifically, all 19 who turned in a reflection expressed the importance of traditional Hawaiian place names so we would not forget ancestral knowledge, keep our language and culture thriving, and know and understand our ʻāina. This also reflects a sense of kuleana to Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian culture where students perpetuate our cultural names and knowledge. Here is a quote from one of our haumana who expresses the importance of place names "because each name holds mana and moʻolelo and we need to remember that in order to keep our culture thriving".


Regarding ʻōiwi leadership, our program takes the perspective that ʻōiwi leaders need a foundation of being able to lead themselves in order to lead others.  We accomplish this through teaching and sharing Kilo Kino, Kilo Hanu and other culture-based practices of self-regulation and management of emotions. We set the foundation of a deep understanding of diaphragm breathing which we call “opu breathing” and a deep observation of kilo hanu. 19 students who turned in a reflection or survey said that they learned some type of tool to manage their wellbeing, which made them feel calm, connected, and at peace. 8 mentioned how they would use breathing in general to calm themselves in stressful situations. Additionally, 5 students said they would use 2-in-1-out breathing and 3 would use belly or diaphragm breathing as tools to manage their wellbeing.


One student explained the tools of use to them and their feelings from learning and practicing these tools in our morning sessions:


“One tool that I learned for when I am feeling stressed is breathing in twice and then taking a long breath out. I will especially use this tool when I have to speak in front of a class or when I am struggling to finish an assignment. During the morning and kilo kino session, I felt more present and at peace. It feels like weight has been lifted off my shoulder and my body/mind feels lighter.”


Besides breathing, 2 students said they would use the kai to cleanse and connect, which reflects the practice of pikai (salt water cleanse). One student shared: “I’ve learned to start taking my mental health more seriously in order to grow and I've also learned how to quiet my mind and focus on my breathing when I'm feeling anxious. I've learned that self care is important and the two breaths in one breath out method is effective in stressful situations or when I need to slow my breathing. Cleansing myself in the kai and learning the grounding techniques allowed me to feel like I was starting fresh every day.”


Overall our satisfaction survey was 100% each of the students that participated in our program stated that they all want to come back and will recommend it to others.

The feedback from the parents was very positive. Many stated their kids were so excited every day they came home talking about all the fun they had. Another parent asked if we could extend the program for another week.

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