Parents experience the beauty of Pu’u O Mānoa

– By Frances Hayashi P’23, ’26, ’32, parent committee member

The final PFA Parent Coffee event of the school year, hosted by the Parent Enrichment Committee (PEC), brought together more than 100 – 12 parents and guardians for a morning tour of the sacred Pu‘u O Mānoa. The “Into the Wilderness” event served as a day of adventure for guests to experience the beauty of the pu’u and glimpse the activities that take place there and are central to their students’ outdoor experience.

Our journey to Pu’u O Mānoa began when Kumu Andy, Kumu Shelby ’01, and outdoor education assistants Sun-Hee Wong ’19 and Tyler Sato ’19 led us in the oli “Lei Mānoa,” written by Ke’alohi Reppun ’99 . . Kumu Shelby explained this beloved chant, “showing who we are, where we come from, and what our purpose is.”

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

We ventured up the trail, which led us to Pu’u O Mānoa Summit, where we enjoyed the majestic views of the city and ocean and felt the cool breeze.

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

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

This outdoor space also provides opportunities for Academy students to conduct service projects and authentic conservation efforts on our own campus. This spring, Teara Leong will be the first to graduate with an outdoor education honors. Part of her journey included a focus on reforestation of Rocky Hill (Pu’u O Mānoa). The tradition of seniors spending their graduating year on the Hill has shifted to caring for the land and leaving a legacy by planting a tree, an example of how they hope students feel connected to our campus and country.

Just as Kumu was telling Andy about the cultural significance and purpose of restoring the country’s native birds and plants, we were greeted by the chirping sounds of baby red cardinals that had just hatched two weeks ago. Maybe one day they will be ‘apapane’.

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

I also discovered the misting tunnel that my daughter Katie ’32 excitedly told me about last week during her fourth grade camp experience. I ducked under the tunnel and imagined all the screeching laughter that had taken place beneath 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 final stop we met the bush sheep that had been 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 children can ‘learn by example’ and ‘see how animals are well cared for’. Their favorites are apples, carrots and alfalfa. Some of us even got the chance to feed the sheep!

As we descended 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 country and were inspired to get involved in a field service project.

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