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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2002

Drama on war helping teach peace

Benjamin Parker Elementary students are producing "The Last Flower," a play about love and war. From left are 8- and 9-year-olds Sierra Pokakaa, Kelly Lee, Shanena Tyquiengco, David Stevens, Ryan Vicens and Kulaolena Goldstein.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — A story written when World War II disrupted global peace will be performed by third- and fourth-graders at two Windward schools, in the hope it will help them understand the events of Sept. 11 and the importance of peace in everyday life.

It is a lesson they are already learning.

If there is another war, the two leaders should fight it out, said third-grader Sierra Pokakaa. "Only two people would die, but that's not like real bad."

She and other third- and fourth-graders at Benjamin Parker Elementary School will be acting out the near-destruction of a community and showing how love and caring can rejuvenate in "The Last Flower."

The children's musical is based on a James Thurber story written for his niece in 1939.

At a glance

• What: "The Last Flower"

• When: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ben Parker and 7 p.m. May 29 at Puohala School

• Who: The play is free and open to the public

"The story is a parable of war, and tells how saving one flower can save the world," said Richard MacPherson, Castle Complex performing arts teacher. MacPherson is directing the play, which he is also teaching to Puohala students.

"(The play) took on added significance after 9/11," said MacPherson, who chose the story and adapted it as a children's musical.

With the terrorist attacks and children's exposure to violence on television and in video games, school curriculum and plays such as "The Last Flower" are giving children avenues to explore problems and resolve them, MacPherson said. It gives them an opportunity to talk about their feelings, he said.

The action takes place in a child's bedroom, where a father is reading a nighttime story. Life-size toys act out the story of World War XII, which nearly ends civilization, and how a man and woman nourish the last dying flower and bring back civilization. But people forget and go to war again, and in the end just one man, one woman and the last flower are left.

The children have learned five songs for the play, including "Heal the World," "Yellow Submarine" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."

In discussing the play, six of the students agreed they would not go to war, and said as future leaders they would do things differently.

Shanena Tyquiengco, 9, said greed led to the war, but Kelly Lee, 9, said arguing and not learning from mistakes also led to conflict.

Everything is destroyed in the play, and people lose their sense of caring and love.

Many years pass and the generals forget why they went to war.

Kulaolena Goldstein, 9, said forgetting was a major mistake. "They didn't learn the lesson because they didn't care about anything any more," she said.

The play fits with other goals at the school, such as teaching children to communicate in a variety of settings and to resolve problems by applying their Character Education Program to maintain peace on campus, said Arlene Medeiros, school vice principal.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the school assembled the children to help quell fears and put the event in perspective, she said.

"I talked about how it's so important to have a peaceful school, to get along and come to an agreement," Medeiros said. "We want everybody to feel safe here."

The children recognized that getting along was necessary to rebuild civilization. They tried to resolve the problems for the characters in the play and figure out how they could avoid another war.

Part of it is letting others live where they want to, said Kelly. "Because when you argue, it's like a snowball. When you add more hatred to it, it gets bigger and bigger."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.