A hands-on cultural outdoor classroom program for that incorporates Native Hawaiian traditional planting knowledge and practices.

Kupu Ola – to bring forth or sprout life – is a project that collaborates with schools to create outdoor classrooms. The classrooms are located amidst native plants, creating an effective learning opportunity for keiki by bringing cultural and academic lessons together. Participants in Kupu Ola learn to appreciate Hawaiian culture and its connection to the land.

What are the benefits of Kupu Ola?

Children are the gatekeepers of the Native Hawaiian culture. Kupu Ola reinforces the connection between Native Hawaiian culture, language and traditions.

Teaching in a natural environment creates learning opportunities that support and enhance all academics and cultural lessons, including math, science, literacy, art, as well as social and emotional skills.

Learning is hands on. For example, lessons in math are practiced by charting the growth of plants, measuring rainfall, and counting seeds and plants. Lessons in applied science are realized when documenting and marveling at the changes from seeds to plants.

Keiki vocabulary skills are improved in English and Hawaiian. Songs are sung that reference nature and cultural narratives are passed on. Singing, storytelling, game playing and rhyming, all function to embed these lessons and empower students to "own" the land.

Teamwork is reinforced as educators convey the benefit of taking responsibility for the combined efforts and talents of the class unit. Students are exposed to different environments and natural laws. When plants are harvested, accomplishments are shared.

Why is cultural-based learning important?

Native Hawaiian students fall behind their peers in several areas:

  • Hawaiʻi State Assessment tests place Native Hawaiians 10 percentage points lower than their peers in reading and math.
  • Absenteeism is a tremendous problem and 30 percent of Native Hawaiian students fail to graduate from high school.
  • One in five Hawaiians attend special education classes, compared to only one in 10 non-Hawaiians.

This culturally-based instructional design allows our keiki to identify and regain their roots and heritage and as a result, offers the potential of narrowing, if not closing the education gap, between Native Hawaiian students and their mainstream peers. Kupu Ola brings communities together.

  • Kupu Ola shows keiki their actions matter.
  • Kupu Ola taps into a community's wealth of knowledge.
  • Kupu Ola provides a place for children to develop.

Kupu Ola will help plan and construct the outdoor classroom, provide supplies and materials, and work with teachers to develop effective lesson plans that engage students, and help ensure that quality standards are being met.

If you are interested in partnering with Kupu Ola, please e-mail sanoetw@inpeace.org


Learn About the Mighty Onion at Lā Wahi Hānai


  • Onions are a delicious vegetable and a hearty plant. January’s Lā Wahi Hānai experience will focus on the onion. Share your respect for the ‘āina with your ʻohana and make it a monthly time to enjoy each other! Join your neighbors from 8 to 10:30 a.m. every third Saturday of the month at Kupu Ola Nānākuli Elementary School. The next gathering is on Saturday, January 19th. It begins with mālama ‘āina (clean-up) and then moves on to wā a‘o (educational time). Dress comfortably and don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, appropriate shoes and a water bottle. And, be sure to bring something from your home to share, perhaps papaya, mango, fish, kalo, a song or a story. Learn more

Lā Wahi Hānai Explores
‘Tongue of Fire’


  • The “Tongue of Fire” plant is from the bean family, which is a wonderful source of complete protein. It’s the focus of October’s Lā Wahi Hānai. During this month’s outing, you’ll learn how to grow this unique plant and discover the nourishment it offers. Learn more

Lā Wahi Hānai


Every 3rd Saturday of the month 8:00-10:30am

at Kupu Ola Nānākuli Elementary 89-778 Haleakala Ave. Wai‘anae, 96792

  • Malama ‘Ᾱina- Clean-up
  • Wā a‘o- Educational time

Please Bring/Wear:

  • Something from your home to share
  • (Examples: papaya, mango, fish, kalo, banana , songs, or stories.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Shoes
  • Water bottle