Sacred Hearts students immerse themselves in the Hokule‘a culture
MAALAEA – There are no words that can accurately encompass the meaning of the Hokele’a, a 60-foot, double-hulled Polynesian voyaging wonder, and its importance to our world.
She is a Hawaiian superhero, monumental and consequential; her story will be lauded in the history books of tomorrow.
She was relentless on her worldwide, peaceful quest, plowing across over 40,000 nautical miles of oceans and waterways, reaching the far corners of our planet, with this one message: Malama Honua (to care for our Earth).
The journey commenced in 2013 and ended June of last year; but not really – the mission of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) does not sleep, retire or rest: “to perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through experiential educational programs that inspire students and their communities to respect and care for themselves, each other, and their natural and cultural environments.”
It is ever present.
After she returned to Hawaii from her three-year global trek, two months later the PVS launched another campaign, the “Mahalo, Hawaii Sail,” focusing their course in Hawaiian waters.
The ongoing educational outreach will eventually visit 40 ports, connecting with almost 80 communities throughout Hawaii Nei.
Her latest port-of-call is Maalaea Harbor (Feb. 19 through March 2), where the Hokule’a crew connected with not only the public but with the youth of West Maui.
Students from Sacred Hearts School, Kula Kaiapuni o Maui Ma Nahi’ena’ena and Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Lahainaluna immersed themselves in the Hokule’a culture dockside last week.
The Lahaina News joined the Sacred Hearts School entire student body of 185 for this powerful learning experience on Wednesday (Feb. 21).
Kala Baybayan Tanaka, a Lahaina girl, is the Maui educational specialist for Hokule’a. Sacred Hearts School eighth grade educator Mary Anna Grimes was her assistant in organizing the PVS outreach on Maui.
All crew are cross-trained, it seems, and both Tanaka and Grimes are well-versed in wayfaring knowledge, having sailed on several legs of the worldwide voyage.
Tanaka is an apprentice navigator, learning the craft from her father, Kalepa Baybayan.
Grimes has been an advocate of experiential educational reform since 2002.
According to the Internet (www.aee.org/what-is-ee), Experiential Education “is a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.”
The PVS method is through the wa’a (canoe).
“Teaching about Hokule’a, we are able to teach every subject. It is the best way to revolutionize education. I teach it, because Hokule’a is a floating classroom, just as Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani, Maui’s 62-foot voyager, is a floating classroom,” Grimes said.
With this in mind, from the opening protocol to the lesson of the Pu’u Kukui Watershed, it was obvious the learning would dive below the surface; some of us were in uncharted waters.
There were five learning stations at the harbor that morning: star compass, Pu’u Kukui Watershed Preserve, knot tying, canoe parts and canoe tours.
Onboard to greet the haumana (students) was another second-generation member of the Hokule’a team, 32-year-old Mariah Hugho. It appears that the Hokule’a legacy is in her blood, and she’s proud of it.
“I am a crew member of Hokule’a, daughter of Kimo Hugho, one of the original crew members in 1976. We’re here out in Maui so excited just to service the kids, get the kids on Hokule’a, use her as a classroom, revitalize our culture, our language and just get them excited.”
“I graduated from Nainoa Thompson’s Ocean Learning Academy,” the PVS volunteer coordinator continued. “He has his own charter school called Myron B. Thompson Academy out of Honolulu.”
She loved her high school experience. “Who gets to go to Hokule’a for their classroom? You’re out in the elements; you get to learn about culture. We get to learn things we know are being lost. It’s amazing to have Nainoa one of the main people who is revitalizing all these different ancient things we thought we lost.”
With her enthusiasm, her knowledge was contagious to all guests, young and old. “The children are the main thing,” she advised. “If we don’t instill these values and these traditions into our children, what do we have them for?”
At a special station, Grimes shared some of her special memories of her 16-year association with the Hokule’a. One exercise included the children reciting after her the course of the Worldwide Voyage; it was tender, personal, more than a geography lesson.
The Lahaina News is only recounting the first two verses of the odyssey.
It began, “In June 2014, Hokule’a left Hilo; and she sailed to Tahiti; and she sailed to the Cook Islands; and she sailed to Samoa; and Mrs. Grimes got on an airplane from Honolulu; and she flew to Samoa and saw Hokule’a in Samoa.
“Hokule’a leaves Samoa and sails to Tonga. We leave Tonga, and we sail to New Zealand; and we leave New Zealand, and we sail to Australia; and, for the first time, Hokule’a is kissed by the waters of the Indian Ocean; and Hokule’a sails to Indonesia and to South Africa; and, for the first time, Hokule’a is kissed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean; and Hokule’a sails to Brazil; and Hokule’a sails to Cuba; and Hokule’a sails to the United States.”
Kainoa Pestana is a steward of the Pu’u Kukui Watershed Preserve. His talk, sharing his kuleana, was profound, impressing a strong sense of place for these young West Siders.
The puukukui.org website describes it well: “Extending across more than 9,000 acres from mauka to makai of Mauna Kahalawai on Maui’s West Side.”
Under new management, “the ancestral wisdom of Hawaiian elders has been laid as the foundation for conservation efforts in the preserve; providing a culturally sensitive and informed approach to managing the thriving native ecosystem of Pu’u Kukui.”
Pestana captured the students with his story-telling talent, giving life to the image of the connection of the mountain to the ocean – water.
“Water is the most important element that we have,” he stressed. “It makes Earth habitable, and that’s how important it is for us in Hawaii to take care of our watersheds.
“This is your mountain more than it is my mountain. This is your water. The environment is where we come from; it’s who we are.”
“What is all this in the upper watershed? What does it provide for us? Water. The main thing that we do is water. If you guys leave here with anything, it’s water is life. When the rain falls on tops of your mountaintop, where does this rainwater go? To the watershed, and what goes up must come down… and eventually into the ocean.”
“Malama Honua: take care of the ‘aina,” Pestana added.
For Grimes, on this day, she has come full circle: “We have been doing education all around the world, and to have it come home, with all of these children, is just the culmination. It’s Mr. Holland’s Opus.”