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September 1, 2014

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Henderson elementary celebrates Polynesian culture

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/Special to the Home News

From left to right: Elise Wolff Elementary School kindergarteners Aaron Asare, Austin Cates, Kassidy Krumm and Emelie Sanchez perform basic Hawaiian movements to the song “Live a Little” as they show off traditional dance moves to parents as the school celebrates Multi-cultural Day on Thursday night.

Multicultural Night

Kiera Cronk, 3, leans in for a closer look at a Hawaiian dancer during a performance of the 2008 Na Hoku Hanohano Award winning recording artist Gary Haleamau at Elise Wolff Elementary School on Thursday night. Launch slideshow »

From the abundance of leis, to the macadamia nut cookies in the cafeteria, to the traditional dancers onstage, Polynesian culture permeated every corner at Elise Wolff Elementary School during Thursday’s Multicultural Night.

Every hallway and classroom was decorated with paper mache versions of the Hawaiian Islands and flowers the children decorated. They anxiously showed off the creations to their parents.

“This year it’s a tribute to Polynesia. So each grade level took a different group of islands to study and do projects on so each hallway is decorated according to what they studied, from top to bottom,” kindergarten teacher Telu Ramos said.

Sporting a Hawaiian print shirt, parent Jimmy Callis said he was very impressed with the teacher’s involvement with the project and said his four children couldn’t stop talking about what they’d learned.

“They learned a lot about Hawaii – both kindergarten-level and second-grade level,” he said. “They pointed out things that they learned and it was refreshing to me. Some things I didn’t remember, like the state bird.”

Callis pointed out that the attention to detail in the hallway decorations went so far that the teachers actually scented the flowers on the wall so that it smelled like a garden as they walked past.

Ramos, who coordinated the entertainment for the event, invited local dance group the Halau Hula’O Kaleimomi to perform traditional dances and songs in the cafeteria. Renowned Hawaiian artist Gary Haleamau accompanied them on a traditional slack-key guitar.

“Actually getting real Hawaiian Polynesian people, and the honor of having this group and to hear that (Haleamau) was coming … My jaw was on the ground,” Ramos, who is Polynesian, said. “This community isn’t so much Polynesian, so their idea is all pineapple and coconuts and hula-hula, so to get something real – this is very near and dear to my heart.”

Ramos said when the school staff realized how excited she was about planning the entertainment, they gave her the job. The school’s honor choir performed Hawaiian songs early in the evening and Ramos taught the kindergartners basic hula movements. They performed outside for the parents on the basketball courts.

Haleamau, who won the Religious Album of the Year at the 2008 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards for his album “Redeemed,” said he was excited to share the music he has been performing since he was 5-years-old.

“I hope that we are able to bless at least one person -- if we bless one person, we will accomplish our goal tonight,” he said. “We hope that we will inspire them to have a beautiful evening because maybe their day wasn’t so good, or give them a little encouragement so that tomorrow they can face life, not looking back, just looking forward.

“And maybe hopefully giving them some imagination of what Hawaii might be like.”

While the event was only one night, Tahitian night takes place next Thursday so students on other tracks can celebrate. The hallway decorations will be on display for at least two more weeks, Ramos said.

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