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First Samoan Aoga Amata Program hosted by Hawai’i DOE & Le Fetuao

Waipahu Elementary Teachers and Le Fetuao SLC
Source: Le Fetuao SLC media release

Honolulu, HAWAI’I — In mid-July, Le Fetuao Samoan Language Center (LFSLC) and Waipahu Elementary School (WES) collaborated on a two-week Kindergarten preparatory program, A’oga Amata. Targeted towards children ages 4 and 5 without any formal schooling experience, the daily morning program successfully engaged participating students and their families. While most students came from a Samoan family background, there were non-Samoan participants.

Over the two weeks, the innovative program implemented a bilingual schedule of lessons. The first period focused on basic pre-K skills in English. The second period was conducted in Samoan enhancing basic cognitive and social pre-K skills.

The students enjoyed lessons about the alphabet, numbers, basic shapes and colors, the days of the week, and learning how to write their names. Additionally, students were asked to write and reflect on recent life experiences in their very own journal during a morning free-writing session. In this activity, students were introduced to spelling, drawing, and incorporating their own creative storytelling voice facilitated by staff. Students were encouraged to share their stories during circle time with fellow classmates. WES teacher Tifatifa Aiumu was the main instructor for the project.

Elisapeta Alaimaleata, executive director and founder of LFSLC developed the preparatory concept, co-authored the pre-K A’oga Amata curriculum, advocated for support with Hawaii DOE, and coordinated the implementation along with James Suster, Vice Principle of WES.

Several program volunteers included: WES teacher assistant, Tutonu Ekeroma; LFSLC parent, Alexis Sagapolutele; Chaminade University undergraduate student, Anamalia Su’esu’e; and University of Hawai’i at Manoa graduate student, Devin Barney. 

Lessons incorporated working with manipulatives, songs, dances, and educational learning games in both English and Samoan. The students were also given their own Samoan Alphabet Books to help with the practice and pronunciation of the Samoan alphabet. The books were provided at no cost thanks to the free online resources available on the website, Samoan For Kids run by Hannacho Lutu Lei-Sam.

The innovation of this program was the inclusion of lessons conducted in English and in Sāmoan following directly. Each English lesson was paired with a matching Sāmoan lesson that invited students to explore their heritage culture in a meaningful way.

In conversations with parents about the bilingual nature of the program, one non-Samoan parent said, “My daughter came home and sang Samoan songs but we didn’t understand. Then we asked her and she explained to us in English. Thanks for the CD of songs we received and the resources in the beginning. We speak Filipino at home but she was able to pick up Samoan while learning English, which was new and fun for our daughter.” 

Another parent shared, “My daughter never attended preschool. Thanks to Le Fetuao SLC for this program. In the morning our daughter wakes up early and asks us to take her to school. She comes home and does her homework and we practice writing her name.  She was picking up skills she needs when Kindergarten starts.”

On the final day of A’oga Amata, all students, their parents, family members and Waipahu Elementary School Vice Principal, James Suster gathered in the classroom for a wonderful community Academic Showcase — a Le Fetuao method of connecting school learning to home and family.

Students performed a variety of bilingual songs and dances for their parents demonstrating all the new school-based skills they had learned in their two weeks.

Multicolored leis from a crafts-making lesson about colors and shapes in Samoan and English earlier in the week shone brightly as students jumped up in turn for the beginning greeting/attendance song, ‘O Fea o i ai”, and dancing to “Siva Siva Maia”. Parents were thrilled to witness the little ones building their self-esteem to present in front of an audience.

The festivities ended with a communal singing of “Malie Pule le Tama” and breaking bread together with foods shared by all the families.

WES VP Suster shared a schedule of events to kick off the school year and thanked parents for their partnership and support for the children. Families departed with recommendations for their child’s continued improvement and resources from WES on what their child needs to be successful as they begin their first year of school.

Upcoming event in support of Samoan Language – Samoan Language Symposium at Brigham Young University, Provo Utah, Sept. 20 & 21, 2018.