Top of Page

Geography students describe Huakaʻi as 'amazing, eye-opening'

By Drew Kapp, Hawai'i CC Geography Instructor 

In the 2018-19 Academic Year, 160 students from our Geography of Hawaiʻi and World Regional Geography classes at Hawaiʻi Community College have participated in huakaʻi – excursions – that have allowed them to visit, learn from and about, and give back to many different places in every moku or district of this island.

They have visited a legendary valley in Hāmākua; windswept uplands of Kohala; remote shorelines, native dryland forests and volcanic landscapes of Kaʻū; dynamic lavascapes in Puna; storied fishponds of both Kona and Hilo; and the landscape above the clouds on Mauna a Wākea.

On these huakaʻi, our students have learned about ocean currents, tidal fluctuations, moon phases, aquifers, caves, native plants and birds, native forests, volcanic features, rains and winds specific to certain areas, puʻu, streams, heiau, petroglyphs, kalo, lava flows, the companionship of ʻuala and kō, sweet potato and sugarcane, thunder, fish stocks, a sacred lake, our mauna, and all environmental elements present.

While at each site, our students have engaged in mālama ʻāina projects that have included cultural-environmental restoration work of loʻi kalo or taro patches, of māla ʻuala or sweet potato gardens; of marine debris clean-up; of watersheds through outplanting of native seedlings; of anchialine ponds through invasive species removal; of the walls and ʻauwai of fishponds; and more.

While at each site, our students acquired this important knowledge of place from moʻolelo of kupa ʻāina, natives of the respective places, as well as from the places themselves, knowledge that our students have promised to apply to the well-being of their own communities and to pass on to others including younger generations. At each site, students have engaged in basic Hawaiʻi protocol, requesting permission to enter places, sharing their leo or voice; offering lei hoʻokupu that they created together; learning mele hula and hei that speak to the water cycle, the tides, the forest, sustenance and generation; orienting themselves properly and being fully present, conducting themselves in pono ways, entering into a reciprocal relationship with each environment, and sharing their aloha with each place.

Words that our students have used to begin to sum up their huakaʻi experiences include:

"amazing, eye-opening, incredible, refreshing, therapeutic, clarity, meaningful, reverence, togetherness, productive, fulfilling, expansive and expansion, spiritual, enriching, rejuvenating, unity, preservation, nurture, teamwork, inspiring, inspirational and inspired, beneficial, mālama, harmony, humbling and humbled, breathtaking, blessed, kō, hoʻonui, grateful, accomplished, welcoming, remember, fantastic, honoring, peace and peaceful, seeds, mauli ola, mahalo, reflection, respect, complete, grateful, calming, experience, transform and transformation, aloha, memorable, love, enlightening and enlightened, magnificent, awakening and reawakening, redefining, grounded (in our culture and community), connections, ʻike, mesmerizing, elevating, interconnected, life-changing, kōkua, mindblowing, revealing, conservation, community, reciprocity and reciprocate, ʻaihaʻa, treasured, piha, appreciate and appreciative, admiration, laulima, reconnecting, exciting, encouraging, responsibility, adventurous, euphoric, tranquil, pono, Hawaiian, hands-on, life-affirming, success and successful, haʻahaʻa, beginning, piko, hard work, tying, hoʻomālamalama, camaraderie, wonderful, ancestors, growth."

These one word summations speak to the multiplicity of ways our students experience, process and articulate their times on and impacts from huaka‘i.  Huaka‘i seem like a really vital part of our students’ education, and a great way to empower, strengthen and nurture self and community.