Navigating Change Takes Students on Ocean Journey 
March 20, 2009
Lori Arizumi

On May 2, 2004, the Polynesian Voyaging Canoe Hokule'a departed from Sand Island, O'ahu, for a month-long voyage to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). The purpose of the voyage was to motivate people to change their values, attitudes and behaviors in order to take better care of our island and marine environments. The voyage was also part of a multi-year educational effort titled Navigating Change that hopes to empower and inspire the people of Hawai'i to be better stewards of our island home.

A curriculum was developed for grades four and five that included teleconferences between the canoe and schoolrooms, which brought the voyage home and allowed students to experience a glimpse of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI)-now a national coral reef ecosystem reserve and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world.

In voyaging to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Hokule'a intended to use the still wild ecosystems of the NWHI to show the people of Hawai'i a vision of what the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Hawai'i once were. Although the areas are not identical, it provided research and exploration into the effects of human impact - specifically, what land use does to the water and marine environments.

Navigating Change is unique to East Oahu schools, in part because of the aspects of the Maunalua watershed, which has four streams running from the mountains into Maunalua Bay. Community efforts are active in bringing the Bay back to healthy status, and were an important integration with the International Baccalaureate Programmes (IBP) at Niu Valley Middle School, Kaiser High School and beginning in Aina Haina and Hahaione Elementary Schools. (Kamiloiki, Koko Head and Wailupe are also in the Kaiser complex.)

The vision of the complex is that all of schools will focus on learning experiences, opportunities and activities that will allow the students to meet outcomes of the DOE, and also become global citizens. The journey is as important as the destination.

"Hawaiian values were eroded. The voyage of Hokule'a brought back an awareness of our culture," Representative Lyla Berg said. "It illustrated what it is to survive on an island, it enabled the children to become aware of what is needed to take care of ourselves, and our aina."

Navigating Change anchors in Hawaiian culture's "sense of place." Since IBP focuses on problem-based learning, tying the study of science to that sense of place develops a responsibility to environmental areas of concern. For the fourth- and fifth graders, various activities focused on what had happened and why; field trips and research on solutions; and identifying community involvement. The specific areas included at the four participating schools were invasive limu, studied at Hahaione; marine debris studied at Kamiloiki; plastics, at Wailupe; and overfishing, studied at Waimanalo.

"This classroom study program will culminate in a 'Community Awareness Day' public event in Hawaii Kai on May 9, 2009, with displays, speakers and all kinds of activities," says Rep. Berg. "It truly shows students how they can get things done, how you do it, and engage in citizen participation."

Community engagement is an integral component of IBP, which emphasizes environmental awareness, health and social education, and human ingenuity (thinking and interacting with one another). The interaction among all these is the basis for early age learning of attitudes, values and skills to deal with problems in the here and now, and in the future.

Rep. Berg is the state coordinator of the national Project Citizen, which exposes youngsters to what they can do (Kids Vote!) and how they can accomplish these goals. Navigating Change was the educational component, while Project Citizen is integrated within the content and demonstrates the knowledge gained.

"The importance is that we want - we need - to continue this program. To continue the promotion of stewardship, protection and cultivation of the native environment, among the students who are learning and the community," concluded Rep. Berg.

Article originally appeared on East Oahu Sun | Your Community Newspaper (
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