You are hereABOUT



Dara L. Lukonen - Head of School and Teacher

Victoria J. Newberry- Middle School Principal and Teacher

Paul D. Riel - Educational and Technical Assistant 

Hal Parker - Teacher

Michelle Tancayo - Office Manager


Aka’ula School offers a quality, multi-age, transitional environment for Molokai students in grades five to twelve. We are committed to building a community where students, their families, and teachers are engaged in learning. We believe in educating the whole child through a balanced curriculum that celebrates multiple intelligence's and meets the needs of a heterogeneous learning community. Learning, leading, and decision-making are fundamental collaborative processes practiced at Aka’ula School.



We envision a community of critical thinkers who are able to investigate and take informed actions on social, cultural, and environmental issues. We live by the Aka`ula School Values of reflection, excellence, honor, and tradition.



• Reflection requires stepping back and observing ourselves objectively and thoughtfully. We reflect in order to understand ourselves, and our interactions with others and our surroundings. Being aware of the impact of our actions enables us to be effective decision makers and leaders.

• Excellence requires the commitment to meet and exceed the conventional expectations of individual and group performance. It demands quality, vision, and creativity. Whether the excellence is academic, artistic, or athletic it requires “thinking out of the box” and fearlessness.

• Honor is the foundation of positive relationships. Without honor, there can be no trust, and without trust, we cannot work together. Where there is honor, there is respect, integrity, and harmony.

• Tradition teaches us where we come from and who we are. By combining knowledge of the past and present with vision, we create our future. Through continual growth and improvement we become a wise and caring community building on the legacy of our elders.



Established in Fall 2003 and opened in School Year 2004-05, Aka`ula School was started to:

• Take PRISM, Providing Resolutions with Integrity for a Sustainable Molokai, to the broader community. In 2003, PRISM had a seven-year history on Molokai at that time and had received recognition and awards at local, state, national, and international levels as an exemplary environmental education program. The program offered a context where Hawaiian students could participate in an atmosphere of challenge with support. Students, island-wide, would have the opportunity to participate in PRISM.

• Build leadership capacity and positive citizenship. In 2003, National and Molokai-specific research showed that PRISM students improved their critical thinking and problem solving skills and demonstrated the ability to be contributing community members. Students participating in the program were reported to be more mature, have more poise, self-esteem, and leadership ability, and were more autonomous than their peers.

• Help Molokai children and families realize their potential. In 2003, we were committed to building a community where students, their families, and teachers were engaged in learning. We believed in educating the whole child through a balanced curriculum celebrating multiple intelligences and meeting the needs of a heterogeneous learning community. We believed that learning, leading, and decision-making are essential collaborative skills. • Offer greater possibilities. In 2003, we wanted to provide new opportunities to enrich the educational experiences of our students, especially in the areas of family participation and community service.

• Build a bridge for Molokai youth from elementary school to high school. In 2003, when the school was started, there was no curriculum unique to middle school students on Molokai. We were dedicated to cultivating inquisitive, exploratory learning and to teaching young people how to use their skills and voices to make a difference. These five core beliefs became the “talking points” for the development of Aka`ula School and they remain as relevant today as they were when the school was started.



Aka`ula School promotes personal development in an age-appropriate learning environment. The school identifies responsibilities and principles important to the intellectual, emotional, social, and physical growth of our students. Intellectual Growth At Aka`ula School, we believe that all children can learn and therefore, all children deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity. Our students are entitled to the quality of education that the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education possible. During adolescence, students increase their abstract thought processes. This is often overlooked because it is not as obvious as the physical changes adolescents undergo.  During this time period, students begin to have their own thoughts and are able to reflect and metacognate (think about their thinking). 

In addition, students at the middle level are beginning to exhibit understanding and appreciation of the nuances of more complex and intricate humor. The ever widening intellectual capacity adolescents experience at this point of their lives offers greater flexibility for teachers.  Encouraging students to think about their own thinking is a powerful strategy that enables students to make connections between what they are learning and their own lives. 

The increased ability to understand higher-level humor further opens doors for understanding, thus inviting students to participate in the adult world. Emotional Growth Intensity and unpredictability are aspects of adolescence that, at times, result in mood swings, inconsistent behavior, and a false sense of confidence or fear. 

Adolescents are standing with one foot in the camp of adulthood and one foot in childhood. Emotions and behavior will be erratic and at times will regress as young adolescents see they are entering a “strange, new world” and leaving the security and safety of childhood behind. They are attempting to express their developing identity as an adult while maintaining credibility with their peers. Social Growth Young adolescents strongly desire to be apart of a group, with more importance placed on being associated with other adolescents rather than adults. 

Furthermore, this new desire for acceptance in peer groups often places stress on relationships with family members.  Though there may be a strong pull away from family towards peer groups, family approval is still wanted and it can be influential in positive and negative ways. Aka`ula teachers seek to equip adolescents for future success by structuring their instruction to allow for collaboration and group interaction.  It is vital that instruction, assignments, and projects are meaningful and connected to the lives of our middle level students. Physical Growth Middle school students experience more physical changes than during any other time in their life with the exception of their first two years of life.  It is often not mentioned or clearly understood that young adolescents not only experience physiological changes during puberty, but also experience great brain development during this age.  Researchers have found that the area of the brain that controls planning, reasoning, sustaining attention, and other functions is not fully developed.  This research has major implications in the classroom that are addressed while planning curriculum.

The previously listed areas of growth are addressed by the following principles that detail our philosophy:

• We select teaching strategies designed to succeed with students who are active, curious, and maturing in their ability to handle formal processes.

• We create learning opportunities that involve diverse groups of students, are relevant to the environment, and provide exploratory experiences.

• We cultivate strong relationships between students and faculty through small classes and a strong faculty attitude of involvement.

• School discipline is based on the principle of logical consequences with love and dignity.

• We emphasize participation in our school programs. Activities are open to all students who wish to participate, the major criterion being a productive, industrious, and cooperative attitude. We place high value on integrity, sportsmanship, and the rewards of cooperation in an atmosphere of respect.

• Work is everyone’s contribution to the community. All students participate in the maintenance of classrooms, common areas, and the campus.


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By akaadmin - Posted on 04 March 2010

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