Hula to High Tech: Hawaiian Students Re-Create History | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Hula to High Tech: Hawaiian Students Re-Create History

A Honolulu elementary school uses technology to illuminate an ancient heritage. Read the article.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Narrator: Minutes before the daily 8:00 A.M. broadcast at Nuuanu Elementary, the crew is at ease. The kindergarten weatherman is warming up, and fifth- and sixth-graders stand ready at the controls.

Man: Make a jaw.

Narrator: In the next room, their teacher, who doubles as a magician, wrestles with The Tasmanian Devil.

If you're doing, let's say, geometry and then you want to show angles, you can say, "Here's an acute angle. Here's an obtuse angle. Here's a right angle." Things with shapes, you can make circles, squares. Lots of geometry involved.

Narrator: Suddenly, a crisis grips the control room.

No, go back.


Narrator: The opening tape isn't cued properly, and the anchors are caught off-guard, but Chun is unconcerned.

They're panicking. Well, let them panic.

Chun: Our emphasis is on problem-solving, because that's the real world, and they have to know, if something goes wrong, how to problem-solve.

Narrator: After a quick fix, the show rolls on.

Get your computers ready to type in the address for today's question.

Narrator: It's a daily team effort that over the course of the year involves all of the school's 400 students.

Girl: I didn't know there are so many ways to show respect to others.

Boy: Me too.

Chun: We have all different grade levels participating, from kindergarten, they're doing the weather reports, first- and second- and third-graders are doing book reviews, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, they're doing different kinds of projects. So we get everybody involved.

Boy: Good morning Nuuanu. My name is Matthew and I'm a kindergartner from B2 and today's weather is windy.

Narrator: While most schools are reticent to put expensive technology in the hands of elementary children, Chun believes it's all part of the learning process.

Chun: So you can add narration, your audio, to that.

Chun: You need to trust the kids with the technology. In the past, they said, "Well, just let the good students play with the computers." Well, what about the majority of the students, you know? If you only let the good students touch the technology, then the rest, they won't learn anything. So we have to give every child from K through 6 in our school an opportunity to work with the technology, to use it as a tool to support their learning.

I'm writing a script for broadcast.

For tomorrow?

Oh, no. In four weeks. But then I'm getting a head start.

Woman: Okay, so, boys and girls, right now what we're going to do is we're going to log on to the Internet.

Narrator: Introducing students to technology begins in the first grade. Erin Okita's class raised money to adopt an endangered sea turtle through a Caribbean conservation group. They can track the turtle on the Web.

Erin: So, boys and girls, where is Miss Junie to right now?

Costa Rica.

Erin: Costa Rica. Good.

Erin: A lot of them, they haven't been on the Internet before, and so I thought it was a great way to introduce that kind of technology to them. What I wanted them to do is actually start early having experience using the resources that they have available to them.

Is it the same land area? Is it the same shape?

Erin: Well, the main concept of this lesson, I guess, was to connect themselves with the rest of the world, and so I wanted them to feel that they're a part of something, you know, other than just something here in Hawaii.

Where is it that you are going to place it inside of your HyperStudio card stack?

Narrator: In a fourth-grade project, students use technology to connect with their ancestors.

Okay, and great-great grandma. Who is great-great grandma?

Pearl Onaka.

Narrator: Each student created a multimedia version of their family history based on material gathered from their elders.

I was about 35 years old at this time. I worked in a hospital. No, no, pharmacist.

Oh, okay. What did you do for fun?

Fun. Oh, I played baseball, played baseball.

Oh, okay.

Marjorie: Even though, say, a student might not have as descriptive a paragraph on paper, they were able to express themselves differently because of the technology.

Is mom going to be able to provide more pictures like this?

I have one with their grave.

Marjorie: They also have to create pictures that are representative or symbolic of their family. It's a different way of expressing themselves. It gives more of them a chance to shine.

Eleanor: One of the goals that we've had at Nuuanu School is for every child to be an independent learner. The teachers know that learning is the responsibility of the child, where they are to be their mentors or to guide them, but otherwise, we want them to be the doers and the learners.

Child: Oh, wait, for 2 minutes, yeah?

Yeah. Okay, I've got my timer on.

Eleanor: Because we are a small school and we know all the children, you are able to identify the children, you know their needs, you know their talents, you know what they're capable of doing, you know how to motivate them, you know their learning styles, and I think that's what education is all about.

Narrator: At Nuuanu, students learn by doing hands-on projects like sampling the water quality of a stream that runs past their school and empties into Honolulu Harbor.

That means the water is dirty or clean?

Woman: Oh, very clean. It doesn't have any of that phosphate.

Narrator: It's a science project that also provides a valuable community service to the Hawaii Department of Health.

Watson: A lot of the data they did collect on Nuuanu Stream is important to us because normally Nuuanu Stream is not one of the streams that we study.

Child: How many more minutes?

40 seconds.

Watson: Once they get into the field and see us doing this in a regular work situation, they have a real feel of knowing that this is not just lessons, this is real life.

Narrator: Near the harbor, students made a temporary specimen pond and collected seaweed that was then taken back to the school and pressed between book pages. The entire day was documented on video and later edited and posted on the school's website so other students and the Nuuanu community could experience it on the Web.

Boy: That is some dirty water.

Narrator: The school site provides a remarkable record of the learning that goes on here, and from the first day of class to the culminating May Day celebration of Hawaiian culture, it's clear that everyone in the community, from kindergartners to grandparents, gets involved.

Eleanor: What works at Nuuanu School is the fact that we really think family. We really support each other. It's phenomenal how much the school can do with parents supporting you, and they support us 100 percent.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Diane Curtis
  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Jon Dobovan
  • Lew Trusty


  • Susan Blake

Additional Footage Provided by

  • Nuuanu Elementary School

Comments (18)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.