Maui News

$90,000 Awarded to Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani from First Nations Development Institute

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  • PC: Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani.
  • PC: Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani.
  • PC: Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani.
  • PC: Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani.

Ke Kula ʻo Piʻilani, an independent Hawaiian immersion school in ʻĪao Valley, is the recipient of a $90,000 grant from the First Nations Development Institute.

The nine-month grant period began on Sept. 1, 2020 and ends on May 31, 2021. Funds will allow for a host of curricular improvements, community workshops, Hawaiian language classes and professional development.

The funds are part of a Native Language Immersion Initiative that was made possible through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the NoVo Foundation, and numerous individual donors from across the US.


Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani utilizes place-based cultural education to revive ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and shape students through the innovation and ingenuity of Hawaiian culture.

“This collaboration with Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani will allow our students and their families to increase language acquisition, literacy and fluency and achieve educational benchmarks with language at the helm,” said school administrators.

The grant also allows for creation of traditional food-making implements for incoming families through the school’s Hanai ʻAi project, which provides students and their families with tools and resources to manufacture papa and pōhaku kuʻi ʻai.


This is the second year of the program which promotes a lifestyle that allows families to be self-sufficient in feeding their ʻohana through traditional methodologies. 

“Our collaboration with local Maui farms and renowned chefs provides a wealth of food resources that focuses on eating local, thereby decreasing our dependence on mainland produce as a community,” said Leah Santos, Hope Poʻo Kula/Vice Principal of Ke Kula ʻo Piʻilani.

The school also hosts language classes for parents of haumāna (students). Ka Piko Kaiao is a free community education class that teaches ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi weekly and helps to integrate language acquisition at home and in the classroom, further allowing students to learn organically. 


Santos said the grant is also helping with academic curriculum. “We recently purchased iPads for each student to help with distance learning and acquired video equipment to promote a love for interview and visual storytelling. We are excited to allow our students to tell their own narrative, to develop a wonderful and strong sense of self, and be able to capture the beauty of their own natural environment.”

The school also instituted a daily tutoring program where the students receive individualized support from their kumu (teachers). This personalized teaching is meant to increase language fluency, establish mastery of common core standards and cater to individual learning styles. 

“We have intentionally increased our digital Hawaiian language resources for our haumāna and are advancing into a stage where we can create shareable resources for use throughout the state,” said Santos.


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