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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 26, 2006

Kids take family lore onstage

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Let me tell you about biggest show in Our Honolulu last week. It was the 15th performance of the "Iolani Calls" broadcast from the banks of the Ala Wai, with a cast of 70 second-graders, a march of war heroes, chorus lines and an original script that covered more than a century of Hawai'i's history.

Iolani second-grade teachers Jeanne Chun and and Cliff Lee cooked up the idea. "Iolani Calls" teaches kids about their families and the history of Hawai'i and the nation by having them interview their parents and grandparents, then tell the school what they learned.

What began as a classroom project has expanded into a full-blown theatrical production involving a dance teacher, a music teacher, an art teacher, and a sound and light crew.

I attended the performance for Iolani students. Parents attended the next day to hear about themselves from their own kids on the stage. Other parents and grandparents marched in the military parade with second-grade offspring. Then they all went to lunch in the cafeteria.

This year's class titled its production "Families Are Forever." Each of the pupils in the show drew a picture of his or her family, each picture signed by the artist. All of the pictures got used as illustrations on different copies of the program. Each family took home a program illustrated by its own second-grader.

In case there are teachers who would like to copy this dandy idea, let me tell you more about it. Getting it all together takes about a semester, said Joyce Veda, one of the four second-grade teachers involved this year. After the pupils have interviewed their parents and grandparents, the teachers spend Christmas vacation weaving the information into a script.

Each pupil recites his or her own original material. For example, Jacob McFarlane told about the time his grandfather was going to fight the school bully. Classmates gathered around to watch the fight. Just as they put up their fists, grampa's mother drove up and called, "Michael, you have to go to your violin lesson now." Grampa's reputation was ruined.

Jon Liu said his grandparents described their teachers as strict but kind. His grandmother's first-grade teacher taught her how to sew a kimono. Teana Bryan told about how her grandmother's teacher, Sister Pauline, taught her class how to raise bees for honey. Robert Bowers' great-grandfather, the Rev. Imamura, was the first Buddhist bishop in Hawai'i.

James Mizota said his grandfather's teacher, Mrs. Baker, brought him cookies on his birthday. Taja Hirata-Epstein's grandfather won a math contest in school.

On the lighter side of "Iolani Calls," one of the teachers performed as Hilo Hattie and did the commercials for the radio show. She advertised the malassadas at Leonard's Bakery, the shrimp curry at the Willows Restaurant and the plate lunches at Chunky's Drive-In.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.