Westside keiki, tutu bond

A white van was parked in front of the Waimea Boys and Girls Club House on Monday morning at 7:45 a.m. Carrying “stuff” from the van to the hall, what four women created was something almost magical.

Tutu and Me, a traveling pre-school program open to children up to 5 years of age and their caregivers, started in Waimea and Hanapepe in mid-January.

“(Westside families) need to get used to what we do and who we are,” said Monica Kaauwai, director of Tutu and Me. “When they find how good the program is and how much the children like it, they will come.”

Kaauwai said the Kapa‘a-Anahola sites she started with took just under a year to build to 50 children.

Kaauwai was awarded a U.S. Department of Education grant for three years to run the program on the Westside. Nonprofit sponsor the Partners in Development Foundation is committed to renewing or finding new resources to keep the program going, Kaauwai said.

“We’re here to serve the Hawaiian community, especially the tutu (grandparents) who take care of younger children, but we are open to anyone willing to come and participate,” said lead teacher Diane Acoba.

They have an actual preschool setting packed in a van that they spend about 45 minutes setting up every day.

The set-up includes about 18 centers that cover fine and gross motor skills, language arts, fine arts, math, science and cultural values. There is also an infant center.

Teacher Assistant Michelle Garcia said they develop each center, and each month features a new unit. The unit for this month is bugs and insects.

“We have fun creating the centers,” Garcia said.

The centers have written instructions and all the necessary supplies and materials so the keiki can choose a center and have tutu help them with the various activities.

TA Natasha Perry said they encourage the adult caregivers to follow the children’s lead.

Garcia said some children excitedly run to each center. Others tend to stay at a specific center.

“It depends on the age and attention span of the child,” Garcia said.

In keeping with the bugs and insects unit, the mana‘o ko tutu (tutu talk) center instructed tutu to read the picture book “How the B-52 Cockroach Learned to Fly,” by Lisa Matsumoto, aloud and then “have fun making a cockroach puppet.”

The vocabulary word was ‘elelu, or cockroach.

The akeakamai (science) center had bugs the teachers had caught for children to look at through magnifying glasses.

Even the aimama (snack) center had cookies in the shape of bugs.

For building gross motor skills there was a caterpillar tunnel. The instructions read: “Let your child crawl through the caterpillar tunnel. Ask your child what kinds of pictures he/she sees that are in the caterpillar.”

The vocabulary words included “food,” “bug” and “insects.” The activity was based on the story “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle.

“She likes to sing and dance and be with other children,” said Rosemary Smythe, grandmother of 2-year-old Reign Palama.

Kaauwai said the Eastside program is funded by the DOE and Kamehameha Schools. Kapa‘a-Anahola was one of five communities statewide Kamehameha Schools chose to infuse more resources.

Free to all participants, Tutu and Me travels to Waimea Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the program visits the Hanapepe United Church of Christ from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

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