He wa‘a he moku; He moku he wa‘a.
(The canoe is an island; The island is a canoe)
I have been thinking about the above saying a lot this past week. It is familiar among wayfinders and often spoken when discussing issues of sustainability. It serves as a reminder for us about how to live well on islands. It teaches us that the values, dispositions and skills needed to thrive and survive on a canoe during a deep-ocean voyage are the same ones we need for a healthy, caring and sustainable society on land, on Island Earth. We need to care for our relationships – those to our resources and to each other.
We were fortunate this past week to have several guests on campus that presented lessons about this very topic.
Several grade 3-8 classes started their week by visiting with Jenna Ishii from the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). Jenna spoke with our students about PVS’s recently launched Worldwide Voyage (WWV), which will have the canoes travel 47,000 miles over three years and take them to 85 ports in 26 countries. Our students couldn’t have asked for a more informed presenter, as Jenna works for PVS as their Education Coordinator and is an Apprentice Navigator herself! She has already been to Tahiti, Samoa, and Aotearoa on this voyage and we were fortunate to have her share stories and photos with us.
Jenna shared about the mission of the voyage and importance of ocean conservation. Did you know that half of the world’s oxygen comes from ocean plants? Jenna also shared that she visited Assets to learn about and ask the same question she inquires of children around the world that Hōkūle‘a visits – what are you doing in your community to mālama honua (“care for our Earth”)? Our students had some thoughtful responses and were then able to ask their own questions. Popular questions were about what crew members eat, how they sleep, what they do for fun out at sea that long, and of course, how do they go to the bathroom on the canoe?
After meeting with students, Jenna stayed after school to talk story with faculty members who were interested in learning about how the WWV is going and how schools and classrooms can get involved.
Our students followed up their learning with Jenna about the current PVS voyage by stepping back in time and meeting with Auntie Penny Martin the next day. Auntie Penny is currently a cultural and environmental educator for Papahana Kuaola but she visited our campus to share her experience as an original Hōkūle‘a crew member during its historic 1976 voyage of rediscovery to Tahiti and back. Only 28 people served as crew for either leg of the ‘76 Tahiti voyage so it was a great honor for us to host Auntie Penny and listen to her reflections on Hōkūle‘a being built, crew training for the first time, wayfinding in open ocean, and finally the reception the canoe received in both Papeʻete and Honolulu. The students loved listening to Auntie Penny’s fun and poignant stories. Auntie even set the ambiance of 1976 by displaying her photos via a slide projector. I’m not sure how many of our 3rd and 4th grades had ever seen one of those before! Auntie Penny shared a wealth of history, and it was a memorable experience that I’m sure we won’t soon forget.
We also hosted two other guests who taught us lessons about our earth and mālama honua. Author David Smith spoke with select classes about this new book, If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, and how informative it can be to look at our world on a scale model. Finally, Class 73 had a visiting science teacher, Ms. Pina from Partners in Development Foundation. Ms. Pina is presenting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum that focused on conservation, preservation and sustainability. When I visited class, I enjoyed watching the students review the ahupuaʻa system and then build their own terrariums!
Mahalo nui loa to Jenna, Auntie Penny, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Pina for visiting and sharing their manaʻo with us. Itʻs important that students can study both indigenous and modern science, along with Hawaiian cultural values. We learned a lot this week!