Education Trends

Preserving Traditions Through Storytelling: Teaching Kids How in Hawaii

April 19, 2007

As educators, we naturally view the world in the context of creating positive opportunities for teaching and learning. Yet many times, when this happens, our ideas also have an effect on how communities pass values and expectations along to their children.

The focus on becoming global citizens can supersede efforts at home to remain connected to prior generations. In response to this quandary, Hawaii's RadioKids program motivates students to become leaders who preserve traditions and storytelling by interacting with their elders before it is too late.

The population of Hawaii is a true kaleidoscope; people there communicate with each other through a portal of forty indigenous languages in addition to Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and English. RadioKids empowers students to become a vibrant part of this kaleidoscope as they view their world through the stories of their communities. Students engage elders and ohana (family) in interviews that help them connect the value of "talk story" and kuleana (shared responsibility) to personal growth.

Under the guidance of David Lemberg, executive producer and host of the weekly Internet radio program Science and Society, students learn design elements, communication strategies, and technology skills to create online radio programs with podcast archives. The one-month standards-based curriculum for RadioKids is divided into fifteen-minute segments of news, entertainment, sports, features (human-interest stories), and commentary (editorials and opinion pieces).

Using a conversational environment, students explore a paradigm shift in thinking about their families, friends, and neighborhoods in preparation for interviewing members of older generations whose stories reflect the living history of the islands.

The RadioKids curricula model how to research background materials, interpret facts and figures, create effective headlines, interview guests, and analyze the relevance of traditions and storytelling to changing patterns in the community. After each program, students form focus groups to discuss which elements within the interview added value to their lives as leaders. Student teams then use editing software to archive the interview as a podcast for 24/7 community access.

A highly successful charter school, the Myron B. Thompson Academy, will pilot the RadioKids program beginning in August with its student-government leaders. MBTA is named for the Hawaiian visionary who began the state's first Polynesian Voyaging Society, and his son, Nainoa Thompson, is a role model for children across the islands. Even now, Thompson is navigating the Hokule'a, a replica of an ancient Polynesian canoe, to Japan and Micronesia using only celestial navigation. When he returns this summer, students will ask his permission to create podcasts around his travels to link their education with his unique experiences.

This transmittal of intergenerational Hawaiian wisdom will empower students with an awareness of their place as leaders and future custodians of sacred knowledge within the Hawaiian Islands. It will provide them with vital instructions from their elders to be caretakers of the oceans and natural resources -- for we must remember that if we lose the oceans, we lose the planet. And, most importantly, it will instill a sense of pride in these Hawaiian students that the aloha contained within community memories is not just a word; it is a spirit of life.

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