Punahou and the Worldwide Voyage – Converging Journeys

By Camila Chaudron '08

"The best indicator of our future is what we teach our children."

It was a late spring afternoon in 2013 when renowned navigator Nainoa Thompson '72 delivered this message aboard Hokule'a, sailing just a few miles off the beaches of Waikiki. With wind billowing in the iconic red crab-claw sails and the sun slowly setting beneath the horizon, the crew of the traditional voyaging canoe made its way east, toward Le'ahi (Diamond Head).

A group of Punahou teachers were on board that evening, connecting to Hokule'a during one of her last community sails before embarking on a 47,000 mile journey to circumnavigate the globe. That symbolic spring sail epitomized the ongoing partnership between Punahou and the Worldwide Voyage. Since then, the relationship between the School, its kumu (teachers) and haumana (students), and the values of the voyage have only deepened.

Shaping a Shared Vision

More than just a double hull and a deck, Hokule'a's mission is multifold and the depth of the canoe's promise is profound. Punahou has spent the past years developing programs that capitalize on the educational potential of the Worldwide Voyage through place- and inquiry-based lessons, interdisciplinary projects, extracurricular activities and professional development opportunities. The voyage has given students, teachers, parents and alumni the opportunity to support the School's mission to develop socially responsible citizens in a new and meaningful context.

That the Worldwide Voyage's mission is well-aligned with Punahou's priorities is another reason for synergy. Aptly named Malama Honua, or caring for the earth, the voyage ties into the global and local community's increasing focus on environmental sustainability. To understand the depth of purpose of the voyage, it's helpful to understand the etymological root of malama honua. "Lama means torch or light," explained Ke'alohi Reppun '99, a Hawaiian language teacher and social studies faculty at Punahou. "Malama comes from malamalama, which means to brighten or to illuminate."


Academy science students visited Hokule'a prior to the start of the Worldwide Voyage to meet with navigators and learn about traditional voyaging techniques.

Reppun interprets the leap from illumination to caring as follows: "When I care for you, I bring your needs and your well-being into focus. I illuminate you in my mind until I feel an aloha for you, and I begin to love and care for you. Malama is illuminating people and places so that we can bring attention and caring and balance to them." Honua likewise has many different connotations. Honua, Reppun explains, is any place where something can reside – it can exist in a kino (body), a classroom, a school, or extend broadly to the whole of planet Earth.

"Malama Honua provides an unreal opportunity to learn about new places because they've been illuminated by the voyage," Reppun said. "That's a mission I can stand behind, as the voyage makes each of us more knowledgeable about new places and people."

An Experiential Learning Huaka'i

Beginning in kindergarten, Punahou students discover how the lessons learned aboard the wa'a (canoe) can be applied to modern society. "We start with physical experiences for the younger children," explained Donna Reid '78 Hayes, a longtime kindergarten teacher. In the 2013 – 2014 academic year, every Junior School student and many Academy students visited Hokule'a and went aboard her sister canoe, Hikianalia, while they were docked near Sand Island. Once the wa'a embarked on their four-year journey in May 2014, faculty continued to provide opportunities for students to experience the magic of traditional Hawaiian sailing through local educational nonprofits, such as Kanehunamoku Voyaging Society.

"We asked students to reflect on needs versus wants aboard the canoe," Reid-Hayes said. On the wa'a, the importance of this question is amplified by the close living quarters, which require careful planning, cooperation and mutual trust. "The kids were able to steer the canoe and feel what it was like to voyage," Reid-Hayes said. They also learned about navigation – how the stars are used as trusted guides on the journey, and how the wind and the waves affect the wa'a.

These experiences inspired the children to bring the wa'a back to the classroom, where they decided to build a scale replica of Hokule'a. After they discussed the size and scale of the model, one parent volunteered to help with the construction of the hulls, another's grandmother and older sister helped teach the students to sew the sails and, after many months of building, they completed a model of Hokule'a.

"Everyone in the K – 1 Neighborhood works together," Reid-Hayes said, remarking on the project's success. The objective, after all, wasn't to create a model of the wa'a; Hokule'a is just the vehicle for bringing an experiential learning opportunity into the classroom in a hands-on, applied setting, driven by student inquiry and a values-based curriculum.


First-graders learned about Hokule'a's course to Tahiti from co-director of Gates Science Workshop and former crewmember, Tai Crouch.

Indeed, examples that incorporate these tenets seamlessly into the curriculum abound in diverse and age-appropriate ways across campus; third-graders learning about alternative energy sources within the context of ancient navigation; sixth-grade science experiments using wind speed and the size of the canoe sails as variables; eighth-grade outdoor education conservation activities tied to traditional cultural knowledge; ninth-grade social studies stewardship lessons at Pu'u o Manoa (Rocky Hill).

"Every day, I try to find new ways to connect the curriculum to the voyage and the values of malama honua," said Gail Peiterson, who reaches students K – 12 through the Gates Science Workshop and has been instrumental in developing the educational curriculum for the Worldwide Voyage.

Part of the beauty of these connections is that they're often interdisciplinary. Sixth-graders, Peiterson recounted, spend time working in the on-campus gardens to plant, grow and harvest foods that they later study, prepare and eat in the classroom. During Punahou's annual food drive, they connected the issue of hunger to the gardens by using Hokule'a as a metaphor for island earth. "When you have 30 crew members eating three meals a day, it adds up to 2,700 meals in one month," Peiterson noted.

"On the canoe it becomes visible, as does the trash produced," Peiterson continued. "Students understand that food is essential and this example illustrates how quickly the needs add up over time."

Educators as Malama Honua Ambassadors

Given Hokule'a's educational potential, many teachers across the state have adopted lessons from the Worldwide Voyage and made the mission their own. Some Punahou faculty, like Reid-Hayes, remember when Hokule'a was built and have taken the initiative to integrate these lessons into the curriculum because of their belief in the value of Hokule'a as a cultural ambassador of Hawai'i. "Connecting to the voyage helps students understand this unique place and keep the local culture alive," Reid-Hayes noted, "and there's a huge value in that."

Some, like Gail Peiterson and Tai Crouch, co-directors of the Gates Science Workshop, have always made environmental awareness a priority and the mission of malama honua provides an ideal device to integrate these lessons into the curriculum. In addition to Peiterson's educational partnership with the Worldwide Voyage, Crouch had served as a crewmember during Hokule'a's 1985 Voyage of Rediscovery. Yet, many Punahou teachers had no prior connection to Hokule'a's history or mission and the Worldwide Voyage provides a novel opportunity to learn and apply place-based lessons.


Faculty from various schools gather frequently throughout the year at Wa'a Talks to learn how their colleagues are integrating the lessons of the Worldwide Voyage into their curriculum.

Enter the Malama Kumu. An educational initiative spearheaded by K – 12 Hawaiian Studies Director Malia Ane '72, the Malama Kumu are representing Punahou locally and abroad as educational resources, cultural attachés and ambassadors of the malama honua mission. As Hokule'a makes her way around the globe, the Malama Kumu crew have met her at different port cities, organizing workshops and providing educational outreach. Already, they have traveled to Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia, with further trips planned to South Africa and New York during the upcoming year. The faculty involved in the Malama Kumu initiatives represent a diverse cross-section of the School, from kindergarten art teachers to twelfth-grade science faculty.

"Visiting Aotearoa was a game-changer," said Eliza Leineweber '92 Lathrop, an Academy English and K – 12 garden resource teacher who manages several of the School's on-campus gardens. As the beginning of the Worldwide Voyage was oriented around the Pacific, "My involvement with the voyage brought me a deeper understanding of my own culture," Lathrop explained. This, in turn, informed Lathrop's relationship to Punahou's gardens, which are shaped by Hawaiian protocol, perspectives and culture. "I love experiences that remind me that, as an educator, I'm primarily a learner," she said.

"It's not just about the voyage, it's about bringing people together." – Malia Ane '72

The connections made through the Malama Kumu voyages have cut across country borders, created public and private school partnerships, and united the campus community. While the Malama Kumu initiative has so far allowed over a dozen Punahou teachers the opportunity to share and learn from communities abroad, the School is also committed to creating a local forum for educators to share resources, lessons and insights.

In partnership with the Hawai'i State Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools, Punahou helped launch Wa'a Talks: free professional development events open to Hawai'i teachers who want to integrate Hokule'a and the mission of malama honua into their curriculum. Wa'a Talks have brought specialists to the attention of educational institutions; connected teachers to crew members; and provided a platform for dedicated educators to share their materials, their successes and their challenges with a broader community. As Ane explained, "It's not just about the voyage, it's about bringing people together."

Students Take the Helm

"At Punahou, we have a shot at influencing kids who can really make changes," Ane reflected. "We want our kids to go out, make a difference and be leaders in different fields. If we can get them to love the reef, love the rainforest, their hearts will change their actions.

Punahou teachers understand the connection between empathy and action, and this insight is what drives them to create lessons that engage both the mind and the heart. The aim is for students to become self-sufficient, independently motivated learners so that their education continues beyond their school years. Every child is motivated by something different and, for some, Hokule'a could be the spark of inspiration for a budding engineer or a passionate ocean advocate.

Wreyn Waniya '18 became aware of the Worldwide Voyage after hearing about it in the news, and then through a Punahou field trip to Hokule'a. A few months after his class visited the docks, his wood shop teacher Stephen Wong reached out to Waniya to work on an extracurricular project: a student-teacher collaboration to design and build a model replica of Hokule'a.

"I'm grateful to Mr. Wong, who gave me this opportunity to make something by hand," Waniya remarked. The two worked together on the project for over a year, trading off responsibilities with the woodwork, tying the sails to the mast, adding support strings and applying the varnish as they attempted to make the model as authentic as possible. After a long and fruitful partnership, in the summer of 2015 they finished the wa'a and presented it to President Jim Scott '70 as a gift to the School.

"It's really cool that something I've worked on will be shared and displayed in public places," Waniya reflected. This project was so fulfilling that Waniya hopes to continue tinkering with his grandfather's woodworking tools. Meanwhile, the model wa'a will be used as an educational resource for Punahou students in years to come.


Wreyn Waniya '18 collaborated with his wood shop teacher, Stephen Wong, to create a scale model of Hokule'a that they gifted to the School for educational purposes.

Hokule'a's call can also transcend the classroom walls. Sarah Watanabe '15, for example, was inspired to deepen her connection to the movement in part because of the years she spent paddling outrigger canoes for Punahou under the guidance of Marion Lyman-Mersereau '70, former Hokule'a crew member and eighth-grade social studies teacher.

"Growing up, I always liked the ocean," Watanabe said, "and because of Ms. L-M, now I love everything about the ocean." In addition to homework and college applications, over the course of her senior year, Watanabe prepared to navigate around the Hawaiian Islands, learning about weather patterns and guiding stars. The summer after graduation, Watanabe participated in a 10-day sail around the Islands, steering her sailing school's vessel from Hawai'i island to Kaho'olawe.

"My kumu's kumu were some of the first navigators of Hokule'a," Watanabe said, explaining her relationship to the Worldwide Voyage. "They taught me that the oceans have never separated us, only connected us." Now Watanabe, who entered Boston University this fall, plans on continuing maritime activities in college and has already begun the training process to someday sail aboard Hokule'a.

"The hardest thing is coming back," she said. "I can't be selfish. I have to take what I've learned and share it with the community."


Inspired by her love of the ocean, Sarah Watanabe '15 learned about traditional navigational techniques and participated in a 10-day sail around the Hawaiian Islands.

Facing the Future: The Voyage Continues

"I love this school – not because I read about it in a book, but because I experienced it," said Ane, whose impact as a K – 12 administrator is as far-reaching as it is profound. "I want Punahou to continue to move forward. We need to tie lessons to experiences and we have the ability to provide out-of-the-box opportunities."

Faculty, including Ane, have already begun brainstorming new projects to connect Punahou students to the Worldwide Voyage in meaningful and relevant ways. Tai Crouch is in the process of applying for a grant to make a giant lau hala sail, which students and teachers could weave together.

"There's a lot that can be done with the sails," Crouch said. They require an understanding of mathematics in the planning stages, as well as artistry and cultural knowledge. Crouch has already found a source for the leaves, so if all goes according to plan, the handmade, full-sized canoe deck that teachers and students constructed last summer will soon have a set of sails to accompany it. "We need to continue to ask: How can we get more involved in this voyage, which has so much to offer?" Crouch said emphatically.

"I have to take what I've learned and share it with the community." – Sarah Watanabe '15

Third-grade teacher Denise Awaya '88 Wong has found that her young students relate best to the voyage when they can personalize their connections. Children in her class are encouraged to keep a journal where they create stories about the Worldwide Voyage by writing first-person narratives of themselves as crew members, which combines their knowledge of Hokule'a with their active imaginations. Wong's goal for this academic year is to integrate technology into the experience. "Students might pretend that they are at sea," she said as an example, "and act as crew members aboard Hokule'a using a green screen."

The driving motivator behind all of Wong's class projects is to instill the need to care for the environment. "I teach them that one person's actions affect others," she said. "What we do now is based on the past. And this plants the seed that we are all connected."

"The Worldwide Voyage is a common experience for the School and the state," Wong remarked. "When I was growing up, Hokule'a was a magical thing. It's powerful to know that somewhere in Hawai'i, people are teaching and learning from others because of Hokule'a."

Peiterson is also looking forward to exciting future projects. Punahou rented a giant map of the Pacific Ocean from The National Geographic Society that occupied the Gates Science Workshop last year, which allowed students to step into Hokule'a's sphere by tracing the route of the Worldwide Voyage with their feet. The rental was only temporary, so Peiterson has envisioned that students could create a scaled-down map of the world by outlining the continents on canvas. "Maps illustrate the relative distances between places," Peiterson said, "and underscore how large a percentage of our earth is covered with water."

Teachers acknowledge that the Worldwide Voyage is one of many important initiatives the School is addressing. "Hokule'a isn't the only thing happening right now," Peiterson said, noting: "There's the solar-powered airplane that landed in Hawai'i. There are ongoing ocean conservation projects happening worldwide. Hokule'a is one of many catalysts people can use to connect with the environment."

"To fulfill the mission of the voyage is to create relationships and connections to educational outlets," remarked Nainoa Thompson '72, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a visionary in the field. "It takes progressive, fearless institutions that understand the right thing to do in preparing children for tomorrow and have the courage to do it – a place like Punahou," Thompson said during the springtime faculty voyage aboard Hokule'a.

"In a broad way, what happens on this canoe is like a school – it's a very powerful and intense learning platform," Thompson said. "It's important to have these teachers on board because they're the ones that create the exponential reach we need to change the world."


About the Worldwide Voyage

What: Circumnavigation of the globe using only traditional navigation techniques aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule'a, meaning star of gladness.

Who: Master navigators, apprentices, documentarians, scientists and educators are all actively participating on the voyage, while students can follow its progress at home and in the classroom at www.hokulea.com.

When: Malama Honua is a four-year journey that began in May 2014, with a planned return date in 2017. Prior to Hokule'a's launch, she also traveled around the Hawaiian Islands in 2013 to spread awareness about the voyage and its mission.

Where: Hokule'a and Hikianalia (her sister ship) began their voyage together, launching from Kualoa on O'ahu and traveling together around Polynesia before reaching Aotearoa in late 2014. From there, Hikianalia returned home to the Hawaiian Islands while Hokule'a continues her journey westward, traveling around Australia, through Indonesia and eventually reaching the southern tip of Africa later this year. The plan for the next two years is that she will also visit South America, North America and Europe, returning to Hawai'i through the Panama Canal.

Connecting Punahou Alumni to the Worldwide Voyage

"Many people on the East Coast view Hawai'i as just a tourist destination; there's a lot of education needed to share the values and the culture of Pacific Islanders here," said Leslie Morioka '64 during a phone interview from New York City.

Morioka sits on the board of directors of Halawai, a New York-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to build appreciation and understanding of Pacific Island cultures. Halawai is leading the charge to organize events around Hokule'a's visit to the city in June 2016, which will hopefully intersect with the United Nations World Oceans Day.

"Hokule'a is just the beginning," Morioka noted. The hope is that the Worldwide Voyage will activate a global community to connect people of all ages with the mission of malama honua. Halawai is actively partnering with public and independent schools at all levels in the New York area, from pre-K to grade 12.

"There are 1.1 million students in New York City, and if we share the values of Hawai'i – respect for island earth, the ocean – they can extend these principles to themselves and their lives," Morioka explained. "We look forward to working collaboratively with the Punahou Alumni Association New York chapter, as well as other local organizations to build programming so that every day, we're doing something with regards to the environment."

If you live in New York and would like to volunteer, email aloha@halawai.org.

Hokule'a's Historic Voyage

When Hokule'a made her maiden voyage to Tahiti in 1976, alumni were heavily involved in the endeavor – in fact, Punahou had the largest total representation on board of any school. "It was the year of Hokule'a," the fall 1976 Punahou Bulletin proclaimed in a two-page feature about life aboard the traditional canoe. Tommy Holmes '63, Dave Lyman '61, Kimo Lyman '68, Keani Reiner '70 (one of only two women selected to be part of the crew) and Nainoa Thompson '72 all participated in the initial voyage. The legacy of that historic voyage is still alive at Punahou, particularly because of the strong family ties. The Lymans' younger sister, eighth-grade social studies teacher Marion Lyman-Mersereau '70, is a former crewmember. Her son, Junior School PE teacher Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau '05, has now sailed on several legs of the Worldwide Voyage in the Pacific, off the coast of Australia all the way to Bali, Indonesia.