1. n. Plain, field, open country, pasture. An act of 1884 distinguished dry or kula land from wet or taro land. Kō kula kai, shore dweller.
2. n. Source; container. See kula kakalina, kula wai, kula waiwai. Kula kālā, source of monetary income. Kula loaʻa, source of profit or gain.
3. n. Basket-like fish trap. Rare.
4. nvi. School, academy; to teach school, go to school; to hold school or class sessions. Eng. Kula ʻia, to be educated in school, sent to school. Specialized schools are usually kula aʻo, as kula aʻo hana lima, manual training school, school of arts and crafts; kula aʻo hīmeni, singing school; kula aʻo hulahula, dancing school; kula aʻo humuhumu, sewing school; kula aʻo kamana, carpenter’s school; kula aʻo kuke, cooking school. Cf. kukula. Kumu kula, school teacher.
5. Also gula nvs. Gold; golden. Eng.
So many meanings to the word kula. Such a small word. Big meanings. We are going to focus on #4 – school, academy; to teach school, go to school. Kula is a transliteration for school. Kula. School. See, when Hawaiians were learning English it was probably hard for them to end words with a hard consonant sound. So blunt. Hawaiian is such a flowing, poetic language. It is even a stretch to put two consonant sounds together such as that sch (sk) sound. School becomes kula (k for sch sound, u for the oo, keep the l, and add a vowel sound at end). Make sense?
Kula meant other things long before it meant school. There is the plain, field, open country, pasture. There is a source or container. The fish trap. And the all elusive gold (another transliteration, sometimes said as “hula” obviously a post Cook term).
While Hawaiians may not have had official kula in pre Captain Cook days, there was a lot of learning going on, just not in the form of a building with four walls. Children learned the skills necessary to maintain a self sufficient and subsisted lifestyle, some were chosen from very young ages to learn specific skills that they would continue learning throughout their lives (healing, divinity, canoe carving, etc.). Hmmm…maybe we should consider tapping into our kupuna wisdom and rethink what kula should really be.