Parents Experience the Beauty of Pu‘uomānoa

– By Frances Hayashi P’23, ’26, ’32, Parent Enrichment Committee member

At the last PFA Parent Coffee event of the school year, organized by the Parent Enrichment Committee (PEC), over 100 K – 12 parents and guardians gathered for a morning tour of the sacred Pu‘uomānoa. The “Into the Wilderness” event served as an adventurous day for guests to experience the beauty of the pu‘u and get a glimpse of the activities that take place there which are central to their students’ outdoor experience.

Our journey to Pu‘uomānoa began as Kumu Andy, Kumu Shelby ’01, and outdoor education resource assistants Sun-Hee Wong ’19 and Tyler Sato ’19, led us in the mele “Lei Mānoa” composed by Keʻalohi Reppun ’99. Kumu Shelby explained this beloved chant, “introduces who we are, where we’re from, and what our intent is.” 

On the first stop of our tour, we learned about the blue water tank that feeds the entire lower campus and the fun fact that kids like to hug the water tank when it’s hot. This area also houses the apiary for the beekeeping club mentored by K – 12 Garden and Apiary Resource Teacher Eliza Leineweber ’92 Lathrop.

We ventured up the trail, which led us to Pu‘uomānoa summit, where we soaked in majestic views of the city and ocean and felt the cool breeze.

Kumu Andy shared about the history of the land and how it evolved over time. What used to be filled with mainly dirt, haole koa, and trash has transformed into a lush area with grass and a variety of native plants through the work of countless volunteers, faculty and students. The goal of bringing fourth-grade camp back to campus became a reality in 2018 when my son Ryan ’26, was in the first class to become a Pinao Warrior. 

We saw the workshop where kids learn how to use a hammer safely and make Pinao Warrior wands and a dragonfly out of string and nails. 

This outdoor space also provides opportunities for Academy students to do service projects and authentic conservation on our own campus. This spring, Teara Leong will be the first to graduate with an outdoor education distinction award. Part of her pathway has included a focus on reforesting Rocky Hill (Pu‘uomānoa). The tradition of seniors spray painting their graduation year on the face of the hill has shifted to taking care of the land and leaving a legacy by planting a tree, one example of how they hope students feel connected to our campus and land. 

Just as Kumu Andy shared about the cultural significance and goal of restoring native birds and plants to the land, we were greeted by the chirping sounds of baby red cardinals just hatched two weeks ago. Maybe one day there will be ‘apapane. 

An opportunity to self-explore led me down the slope where I saw over 150 ‘a‘ali‘i that students planted from seed, ‘ilima flowers, and the school’s very own ‘ulu used in K – 5 lunches that Chef Noguchi highlighted in our March PFA Monthly Gathering & Teacher Talk about food sustainability. 

I also discovered the misting tunnel that my daughter Katie ’32, excitedly told me about just last week at her fourth-grade camp experience. I ducked under the tunnel and imagined all the squeals of giggly laughter that had taken place under this converted old trampoline donated by Gail Peiterson, a retired kumu and one of the original stewards of this sacred part of campus. 

At our last stop, we met the forest sheep that were strategically brought in to feed on the haole koa vegetation as a means to help maintain the land next to the PV panels. Kumu Andy also feeds them twice a day to supplement their hard work so that kids could “learn from example” and “see animals taken care of well.” Their favorites are apples, carrots and alfalfa. Some of us even got a chance to feed the sheep! 

As we made our way down the hill past the blue water tank, I couldn’t resist and just had to hug the water tank. 

Guests left with a better understanding of this cherished land and were inspired to get involved in an outdoor service project.

In closing, Kumu Andy and Kumu Shelby shared their hope that students “will understand their actions make a difference” and they will “feel empowered to find their passion and make a difference by following it.”

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