You’re from Hawai’i?” is usually quick to be trailed by paradisiacal comments. Yet, it would be foolhardy to not consider how even the regular reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light require rain to result in multicolored circular arcs across the sky. Such realization and a bend on reality are at the foundation of Alek Kaune’s senior capstone project at Hawai’i Preparatory Academy (HPA).
Kaune commented, “I didn’t grow up in Hawai’i and after spending my high school years here, my entire view of who I am and my perspective on the world has shifted. This unique place called, Hawai’i, has helped educate me more than I ever would have imagined and yet I know there is still so much I can learn.” It was a profound respect for the power of place and his experience in Hawai’i which was the impetus for his capstone titled, “Hollywood’s Hallucinated Hawai’i .” Kaune endeavored to not only demonstrate how dangerous misrepresentation can be, but also how some film producers are helping to change the narrative.
“I have always been a fan of movies and television, and it imprinted onto me my basic understanding of the world as a child,” shared Kaune. Before living in Hawai’i, he had a more narrow view of Hawai’i. As a place that was not much more than simply a “tropical haven.” He has since come to realize far more complexity and how Hawai’i includes an existence of continual struggle. Hawai’i remains an extremely giving place but also must plan the path forward so it is not lost amidst the tragic trajectory from colonialism to commercialism.
Hawai’i Preparatory Academy Gets Serious about Durable Skills
HPA’s Senior capstone program represents the pinnacle of a student’s learning experience. Occurring at the end of the 5th, 8th, and 12th grades, these process-focused projects allow for the application of a diverse range of competencies and the demonstration of durable skills. Furthermore, they are interdisciplinary and all about sustained inquiry and place-based implementation.
America Succeeds, a 501(c)(3) non-profit education advocacy organization, attests to the high demand for such durable skills. Their analysis of 80 million job postings revealed how 7 of the 10 most requested skills are durable skills. Skills akin to the ones in HPA’s capstone are designed around critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Kaune felt that chief amongst the various takeaways from capstone was improved communication skills and learning to become more flexible. With each connection made with a film industry professional, his confidence grew. So did Kaune in his ability to communicate more effectively. Inherent in this was Kaune’s evident graciousness, as he appreciated how adults placed so much trust in him and provided him the time to explore their professional worlds. Furthermore, networking as a skill was realized. “Networking is key, not only just for capstone but particularly in the film industry.” Juggling e-mails with so many people and setting appointments for interviews, resulted in a heightened realization of what it means to effectively communicate but also how important it is to maintain strong systems of organization. Looking at the table below, a case could be made for Kaune’s project building upon nearly all of the top 10 durable skills.
The “real-world” experience of capstone and the application of durable skills often might not be able to be mastered in traditional forms of education. Engaged, authentic, and purposeful learning is clearly the call. Furthermore, when capstone opportunities are seized fully like how Kaune did, they are a sincere testimonial to the power inherent when students take to the “driver’s” seat, instead of sitting as passive passengers disengaged in the quotidian.
An Authentic Portrayal of Hawai’i
Kaune created a short video series depicting the misrepresentation of Hawai’i within the film industry. The goal of the short vignettes was to interview filmmakers from Hawai’i to highlight what work has been done to better depict and represent Hawai’i. As well, as to share ideas for what improvements are needed, and what others in Hawai’i might be able to do to assist.
This would entail much research and connect with filmmakers. “I thought that if I could interview filmmakers from the islands, this might help with addressing the severity of a special place being misrepresented.” Kaune would interview seven different professionals to gain insight and a better understanding of how even though unintentional, Hawai’i at times is type cast in simplistic terms. Alert to this, he along with his mentors, hopes to bring about a change in films. One where Hawai’i is more authentically represented.
Leaving a Legacy
From producers and directors to artists, animators, and writers, Kaune interviewed an array of professionals. Months were spent on this process, beginning with a problem statement and at some point, pitching the idea to peers and teachers alike. Before the winter holiday, Kaune successfully created a demo vignette. “This was practice with the intent to receive feedback to ensure future videos are as polished as possible,” he indicated. Much of the second semester was spent in future interviews and the creation, and editing of vignettes. Because he considers learning as something never finished, Kaune is already excited about his project having a legacy. “I was permitted to credit so many of the people I interviewed. So, if anyone has a project similar to mine in the future, they already have contact information ready to go!” One of his greatest takeaways was a clear understanding of how change must begin at the individual level. This means with filmmakers in Hawai’i first and instead of wishing or telling Hollywood to more accurately represent Hawai’i, it is ourselves who must first go about this. Sharing our stories of Hawai’i and what is real. Ones that may not be included in Hollywood’s hallucinations of Hawai’i. For example, the eight-year controversy over placing a 30-meter telescope atop the sacred summit of Mauna Kea. Such stories might help to remind ourselves, others, and even Hollywood of how even the multicolored circular arcs across the sky require rain.
|Click to hear a little more about Kaune learned through doing this project.|