THE BLOG
09/25/2014 01:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Learning Part of the Journey

When the Student is Ready

by Mary Anna Enriquez,
crewmember aboard Hōkūleʻa

Learning, creating, exploring... Concepts that are key as Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia sail around the world.

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On this Leg 4 - Samoa, Tokelau, Swains, Samoa - there are a total of five education specialists aboard both waʻa (sailing canoes): Jenna Ishii, Daniel Lin, Linda Furuto, Brad Wong and myself. Crew space is a premium so each crew position is critical. That five positions are given to educators is a testament to the promise of the waʻa transforming education.

One and a half years ago, Nainoa spoke to a group of educators in the newly created Aʻo Program at Honolulu Community College's METC (Maritime Education Training Center) on Oahu. Aʻo, to teach and to learn, is a program for educators to design curriculum that can be utilized by any teacher in any country around the world to encourage students to be a part of the Worldwide Voyage while learning experientially in classrooms without walls. The challenge Nainoa gave this group of ready learners was to "transform education." We know what has not worked in the classroom, so the time was perfect for the challenge. The students are ready and what we educators know is that we are all students, we are all learning.

Transform education - how? Break down the walls, learn outside the classroom. And what better venue to learn than the canoes, the waʻa? To know where we come from, we must know where we are going so that we are never lost. Having been an educator for more than 25 years, there have been times that it felt as if we were lost in attempting to educate the whole child.

New ideas, new methodologies, new curriculum and new mandates all seemed to rain down on us in the classroom, the very ones who were trying our best to get the best from our students.

While we were sitting in the classroom at METC that day when Nainoa challenged us, a fresh breeze was blowing. Somehow we knew, even though we were venturing in new waters, that we were headed in the right direction. We could use all that we knew of the past methodologies, of what worked and what had not worked to create fresh new schools, but not as in buildings.

Transform means to change, to create something new. Imagine that transforming education means "creating Schools of Navigation across the world." Again, Nainoa, challenged us, but this time it was in Apia, Samoa, at a crew meeting the evening before we were to depart to Tokelau. He asked Celeste and Rex, our Samoan crewmembers, to imagine a navigation school in Samoa where the final exam would be to successfully find Tokelau. Directly speaking to Timi Gilliom, Nainoa mentioned the recently launched Moʻokiha o Piʻilani, the Maui waʻa. The inference was clear that Moʻokiha along with Makaliʻi, the Big Island canoes, have all the potential to be floating classrooms in Hawai'i, while Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia are voyaging around the world for the next three years.

Education is core to the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage. We are all aware of the seemingly daunting challenges facing us, and our children are key to providing the 21st Century skills of innovation, collaboration and problem solving with compassion, global connections and awareness. Our opportunity is to create a sail plan, venturing forth in unchartered waters and using the waʻa as the global platform of innovative education. "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." The wa'a have appeared.

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