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Students will be educated within a public school system that is grounded in HĀ, powers a multilingual society, and honors Hawai‘i’s local and global contribution.

Nā Hopena Aʻo (HĀ) as Sacred Space

by the Office of Hawaiian Education

“…One of the beautiful things about living in Hawai‘i [is that] we are able to continue learning about our connections and what unites us…So much of being able to transform through HĀ is being able to experience a sense of place.” – HIDOE teacher

“Things experienced at the HĀ Summit continue to help me grow and respect what was, what is, and what will be.” – HIDOE student


Paepae Heeia - Aina Aloha - DOE

Educators paepae pōhaku (set foundation stones) at Paepae ‘o He‘eia for the launch of the ‘Āina Aloha guiding principles.

Transformation requires sacred space. This April marked the third annual HĀ Summit and the first to be located outside of O‘ahu. Held in Waimea on Moku O Keawe, the summit brought together students, educators, and community members from across Hawai‘i to strengthen their sense of HĀ — the Hawai‘i State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) set of interdependent K-12 learning outcomes grounded in Hawaiian values, language, culture and history. Through huaka‘i experiences and the sharing of mo‘olelo, the summit provided sacred space for participants to connect to each other, to the community, and to the ‘āina:

“The opening invocation named and addressed all of the important mountains and hills in the region. The huaka‘i allowed us to bond with a specific area, to learn about the flora and fauna and the ecology of that specific place and to experience and understand it more deeply through storytelling (mo‘olelo), poems (mele), and planting trees (a ma ka hana ka ‘ike)…

Witnessing the green hills & mountains, touring the student garden on campus, hearing the songs, feeling the love for Waimea in every moment created a profound sense of place for me and perhaps more importantly, I came to appreciate the potential for HĀ in Hawai‘i and at home. I was moved by the idea that a new way can emerge from the wisdom of what is already present: our names, our stories, our ancestors, our places, our hopes.” – Community partner/summit participant

A teacher at the HĀ Summit described the experience as “transformative.” A transformative and transformed system is the goal of HĀ; such a system provides flexibility, equity and choice in designing for learning environments where all learners thrive. Through practices such as mo‘olelo, HĀ creates sacred space by offering intention and processes to make transformation possible.

What is HĀ?

In 2015, the Hawaiʻi State Board of Education unanimously approved Na Hōpena A‘o or HĀ, a set of interdependent learning outcomes for use throughout our K-12 public education system. The HĀ framework includes a sense of Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total Well-being and Hawai‘i. These outcomes support a holistic learning process that can guide learners and leaders in the entire school community.

HA, a set of interdependent learning outcomes for use throughout K-12 public education system.

HĀ reflects the uniqueness of Hawai‘i and is meaningful in all places of learning. As a broad set of learning outcomes, HĀ also reflects comptencies that equate to college, career and community readiness. Through HĀ, the HIDOE strategically aligns practice and policy in collaboration with schools and communities.

Nā Hopena Aʻo (HĀ) as Ecosystem for Design, Collaboration & Voice

Together, the six HĀ outcomes drive and support innovation in our educational system. Essentially, HĀ is design: specifically, the creation of learning spaces and experiences that transcend our current assumptions about teaching, learning and classrooms themselves. In Hawaiian, a‘o is both teaching and learning: A‘o aku, a‘o mai. When HĀ becomes the context for learning, hierarchies are flattened. Everyone becomes a learner, everyone a leader, and the classroom itself extends beyond four walls.

AHA ‘ŌPIO O MOLOKA‘I – The Moloka‘i Complex hosted its 3rd Annual ‘Aha ‘Ōpio o Moloka‘i, an opportunity for keiki and kūpuna to exchange mo‘olelo about Moloka‘i’s wahi pana in order to strengthen students’ sense of HĀ.


OHE in collaboration with Ho’oulu ‘Āina.

HĀ is also about transforming the conditions for learning. Just as the root system of a thriving forest below the surface acts as an unseen but interconnected communication network to support the growth of all, HĀ creates the conditions for thriving classrooms, schools and communities in Hawai‘i. In a healthy forest, ‘ōhi‘a, koa, ‘iliahi and lama trees connect through their root systems to balance each other’s nutrient needs. This metaphor of the forest— the canopy and understory—conveys the essential interconnectedness between individuals and systems.

The intentional and purposeful design present in HĀ can both reveal and transform conditions for learning. With HĀ in place as the context — the sacred space — for Hawai‘i classrooms, the Office of Hawaiian Education (OHE) continues to develop the necessary tools and resources for learning and leading. As the sacred space has expanded in school and community environments, stakeholders have voiced a need for a framework of essential concepts allowing educators to ground teaching and learning to Hawai‘i. ‘Āina Aloha was developed to help lay the foundation for such Hawai‘i-based learning. With Hawai‘i as the foundation for learning through HĀ and ‘Āina Aloha, we hope to foster an abundant and thriving educational system where students are empowered through their kuleana for ‘āina and advocate for their communities and for Hawai‘i, our collective home.


Categories: Education

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