Understanding the story: Kona Pacific PCS students take on the legend of Makoa

  • Courtesy photo

    Kona Pacific Public Charter School fifth-grade students celebrate after running the Makoa Virtual 5K run on Sept. 22.

    (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today )

Students at Kona Pacific Public Charter School learned about the Hawaiian legend of Makoa while participating in a virtual 5K race last month.

“During COVID, when most field trips and events have been closed to students and the public as a whole, we have found a way for our local keiki to get involved, while maintaining safety protocols the entire time,” said teacher Kari Lepouttre of the Sept. 22 event.


Ahead of the big event, fifth-grade students collaborated with Clean Reward in a beach clean up at Old Kona Airport Park on Sept. 12. Forty-five people participated, collecting more than 100 pounds of trash.

The teacher tied in different historical aspects of the race into the academic instruction. She taught a mini historical lesson on the ancient kukini (fast runner) and the the legend of Makoa. The legend says Makoa ran from Kawaihae to Waiakea in order to bring King Kamehameha fresh ama‘ama. He made the trip with the fish to Hilo and back in one day.

The Legend of Makoa Virtual 5K was an islandwide annual event. This was Kona Pacific Public Charter School’s first time participating.

“As a Waldorf charter school, we celebrate Hawaiian culture and incorporate Hawaiian studies across the grades. This race was a way to be a part of something bigger than our small ohana and connect across the islands with history, culture, and legend,” said Lepouttre.

She said the legend of Makoa and the fish fit beautifully into their curriculum.

“Oral storytelling and weaving legends of place into our classroom is essential to our learning,” she said. “In fifth grade, our students are studying many different ancient cultures and how these people lived, took care of their families, land and villages; as well as the myths and legends that helped to shape their worldview. Taking the stories we have heard and then experiencing, living and breathing them actually allows the children to understand the story within their body, not only in their head.”

Lepouttre also introduced a mini-journalism lesson where the students wrote an article about all the aspects of their race. Finally, the students were shown images of Hawaiian ancient petroglyph fields, including some from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. They focused on the petroglyph symbol of runners and the students shaped beeswax into a petroglyph runner.

Lepouttre said completing the Legend of Makoa race has given her students the opportunity to test their endurance, overcome their inner negative dialogue, and prepare for the Waldorf tradition of participating in the Greek-inspired Pentathlon at the end of our school year.

“I remember running free with the wind in my face. I was so excited with what I was doing,” said student Jack Gruesen. “I never thought I could run a 5K! Although I was so tired and my legs were so sore, I kept on pushing until the very end.”


“The wind became my face and my hair, all I could feel was the sensation of the last lap and the image of me crossing the finish line. Then cheers from the crowd. I wanted to give up and fall to my knees, but instead I started to run and as I came to the end I was filled with excitement and joy. I felt sparks of victory and triumph,” said Anela Holloway.

“Run, run, run! One.. more… lap… to go. I panted. We were running a 5k race at Kona Scenic Park,” wrote Safiya Ben-Joseph. “To go 3 miles, we had to do 10 laps around the whole park. I was jogging. I am not here to win, I am here to participate, I whispered to myself. Three quarters through the race, I saw a group of girls headed towards me so I put on a burst of speed. I didn’t want to run too fast or else I would be out of energy in ten seconds! Quick! I panted, run, run, run! I made it. I fell to the ground with heavy breaths. I had finished the race. I had not won by ending first, or second or third, but I finished and that was a relief.”

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