Papakū Makawalu is the traditional means through which Native Hawaiian children are taught to observe, interpret, organize, connect with, date and categorize the natural world. It is the ontological framework Native Hawaiians use to experience and assign meaning to the world and is rooted in the development of observational skills valued in their culture.

To support instruction within this cultural framework, an assessment approach embedded within it became necessary. The result is the Papakū Makawalu Competency Assessment, a series of Pre-K through Grade 8 assessments designed by the assessment team of the Kama‘aha Education Initiative (KEI).

First use of the assessments was in 2014-15 at the Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Native Hawaiian Immersion Public Charter School located in Keaukaha on the island of Hawaiʻi. It is the first school the State of Hawaiʻi to incorporate the use of the Papakū Makawalu Competency Assessments as the formal program of school-wide formative assessment.