Fonofale Inquiry #2

If you’ve been following my blog, you would have seen my post about the beginning of our class Inquiry into the Fonofale, Pasifika model of health. If not, you can read it here. Don’t worry, it’s pretty short.

A few days after the discussion around their “what we need” paintings, my seven- and eight-year-old students and I looked more closely at photos of real fales (just a selection I printed from Google Images). Here are a few of their observations:

  • That’s amazing! It’s like a real house. [Note: I had explained that they are houses in Sāmoa and Tonga, but I find it interesting that they looked different enough from the houses that this child was used to seeing that they felt compelled to make this comment.]
  • Some of them have walls and some don’t.
  • I think the ones without walls is for shelter, and the ones with walls are real houses.
  • Most of them have a round bottom.
  • The roofs are made of flax or sticks.

Earlier that day and in lockdown the week before, we had been practicing a short meditation exercise, creating our “special place” in our mind, where we can go to any time. To connect these ideas, we drew our own fales, with our “special places,” or happy “environments,” all around them. In the Fonofale, the fale is surrounded by the Environment). Here are a few of their fales. Sorry for the messy cropping job; it was a bit tricky to crop out names.

As the kids were drawing, I asked, “what makes it your special place? Why are you happy and safe there?” I was fascinated to notice that a lot of their key elements of what makes a good life showed up again here. For example:

  • I turned the beach house into a fale. We’ve got lots of garden, and there’s the sky. To get to the beach, we have to cross the road. There’s the sand and the water.
  • It’s at a dog park, and if you cross the road, you can go to the beach, and you can swim. Here’s my fale. It has all the things you need to survive in it.
  • It’s called Playlife, because everything in my picture is playing.
  • There’s so many things you can be happy about.
  • My family is sweet.

A couple students had “Stories” as one of the pou of their fales. Observing this led into a discussion about the importance of stories, which I will soon put into a new post tagged Philosophy for Children. I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What do you believe are the requirements for a good, healthy, safe life? Does it depend on who or where you are? What are the key elements that are universal, if any (besides food and water)? What do your children or students think?

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