Fun and Games in ka Papa ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

In Kumu Emma McGuire’s ’93 third grade Hawaiian language class, students are creating their own games through an engaging project that blends hands-on experience, collaboration and language learning with game design. 

The ancient Hawaiian Makahiki season was an inspiration for the project. The traditional four-month wet season, typically from mid-October to mid-February, was a time of peace, sports and games. Additionally, February celebrates Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Language Month).

Working in groups of three or four, students crafted their pāʻani ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language games), using a standard set of supplies – dice, poker chips, a ruler – and their own rules that encourage players to practice speaking Hawaiian, covering such topics as introductions, colors and numbers. One group’s game, for instance, involved players saying their favorite color in Hawaiian then adding up the numbers on rolled dice and announcing the answer in Hawaiian. 

“It’s been nice to see students getting excited, being creative and thoughtful, collaborating well, solving problems and celebrating ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi,” said McGuire. After brainstorming, crafting and practicing, students will have the chance to play each other’s games, further enhancing their language skills and deepening a connection to Hawaiian culture.

To continue to honor the spirit of the Makahiki season, students will explore other traditional pastimes including hula, hū (spinning tops), hei (string games) and kōnane (an ancient game similar to checkers) before the end of the year. 

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