GEOG 122 Huakaʻi & Honua Ola Environmental Community Service

By Drew Kapp, Lecturer – Geography & Environmental Studies

Geography of Hawai‘i (GEOG 122) is a 3-credit course offered at Hawai‘i

Hale O Lono Fishpond in Keaukaha

Community College. Lecturer Drew Kapp offers the class in two formats: in-person and as a hybrid online/on-island course. Through the course learners deepen their knowledge of the many facets of the Islands’ diverse geographies, investigating geology, climate, water, ecosystems, place names, population, culture and society, and

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

more – and, most importantly, recognizing the intertwining and interdependence of these environments and themes. A particularly meaningful component of Geography of Hawai‘i is the class huaka‘i or excursion, many of which include an environmental community service component. GEOG 122 learners have, in this and recent semesters,

Native Tree Planting Near Volcano

visited wahi pana of Hilo, Volcano, the summit of Maunakea, Waipi‘o Valley, Kahuwai and Pu‘ukūki‘i in Puna, Punalu‘u and Honu‘apo in Ka‘ū, Puanui in Kohala, and Kalaemanō, Kaloko and Kahalu‘u-Keauhou in Kona. Learners assist and learn from organizations and agencies such as Three Mountain Alliance, Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and more. Drew’s instruction is always in a continuous process of development, and is informed by his training in the Ha‘akūmalae protocols program at Hawai‘i Community College and the Uluākea project of Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center at UH-Hilo. Our huaka‘i play a vital role in the development of learners’ knowledge of place, connection, and kuleana to protect and mālama them. For many, the experience is transformative. Following are some images from this semester’s huaka‘i, as well as some excerpts from the reflections of learners participating in Volcano and Maunakea huaka‘i. Aloha, -Drew

I had a great time on huaka‘i. We planted several kinds of Hawaiian native

Native Tree Planting Near Volcano

plants, such as māmane, ‘ōlapa, and ‘ākala. After learning about the Hawaiian native plants, I have become more curious. I really like to study outside since I learn a lesson from nature, not from textbooks. Through huaka’i, I could feel the connection with the earth strongly more than before. I believe that everybody need time to touch or feel the earth sometimes. – Keiko Miyazawa

The Volcano trip was an awesome experience for me. I felt like for once, I was

Native Tree Planting Near Volcano

a part of something big and I also got to share that with my son Kahi‘au. I feel I have learned a little more about these native plants and I got to be a part of planting them as well. My son had a great time and really enjoyed himself and that’s what really matters, everyone going out there and having fun. – Malia Duvauchelle

I personally found this huaka`i to be a wonderful experience. Working at the

Native Tree Planting Near Volcano

ranch outplanting native trees made me feel informed and like a part of something greater than just myself. I took part in forest restoration. Not only did I learn a lot but I also was able to become better acquainted with my fellow classmates. The knowledge I gained is greatly appreciated. I learned about native plants, ancient history, and the

Kilauea Crater

cultural as well as the biological and natural significance of the plants and places we visited. I am just proud knowing that I took part in it and that it will be something for future generations to behold. – Kealaka‘i Matsumoto

It was an awesome experience to be part of something that will perpetuate the wellness of our forests, home, and even greater yet, the world. The workers of Keauhou were very helpful, and showed a strong passion for what they were doing, which reflected off of us who were there participating. I would like to think of it as giving life to this already abused earth. Visiting Halema‘uma‘u was also exciting. I really enjoyed being there with someone who has knowledge, not only on a scientific notion, but also a cultural aspect. I am a native of these islands and always had respect for the livingness of these islands, to share, learn, and be part of this learning process with others. – Ms.Holly Oberle Kaanana

Imagine one day looking up to Mauna Kea on a clear day and being mesmerized not by snow but the glistening of silver. At one time this might have been possible. The plant Silversword has been said to have covered the top of Mauna Kea and during the day the mountain’s peak seemed to be shining. Silversword is an endangered plant of Hawai‘i. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a huaka’i with the online Geography class. The trip was amazing and the top of the mountain was breathtaking, literally. At the visitor’s center at the 9000 feet above sea level is where I first saw a Silversword. My first impression was it looked like a plant someone spray painted silver. It did not feel stiff from paint. It did feel smooth, soft, and flexible. There are not many Silverswords around. It is important to save these plants because they are part of our culture and they must not be forgotten. Maybe one day we can witness the shining of Mauna Kea’s silver dome. -Melany Ventura

Mauna A Wākea: knowing that we were going up to the summit of Maunakea in this class was a special occasion, going to an area where not many people have traveled to and in the past only certain people, including the ali‘i, could go. As we headed up the summit the cloud line was very low and driving through the thick clouds there was a mysterious like feeling that came upon me, not knowing what was at the other side of the mist or what the day had held for us. But as we came out of the clouds the sun began to shine and seeing the summit, I remembered why I loved to come here. Hiking to Pu‘u Wekiu was harsh and steep, but after reaching the summit looking around and there’s nothing above you but clouds and seeing the whole island below you is truly an amazing. While sitting and reflecting on this pu‘u there was complete silence and spiritual cleansing I guess you could say in knowing that you where sitting in a place of great spiritual powers and male energy. – Domonick Uchima

Our huaka’i to the summit of Maunakea and lake Waiau was a great experience. This mountain holds so much significance both cultural and scientific. After an hour of acclimation and introduction between classmates, the group decided to make the rugged journey up to the summit. As we made our way above the low laying clouds to the highest mountain point, the air was clean, crisp and cold. While hiking up Pu’u Wekiu, it’s hard not to feel humbled by the fact that your 13,796 feet above sea level and that you are not getting your normal oxygen intake. Maybe this is what Hawaiians meant by “being closer to Papa and Wākea.” Waiau also has a huge cultural significance for the people of Hawaii. Hawaiians would dispose of the piko or umbilical cords of newborn keiki into the lake. Doing this is said to bring strength and good fortune to the child. Evidence of remains also make Waiau a burial ground for ancestors. Many scientific breakthroughs have been credited to the observatories on the summit; but we should treat this area with the utmost respect due to its cultural significance. -Kalae Jones

In October I was privileged to have taken a trip to Mauna Kea along with my fellow classmates. While on Mauna Kea we got to experience Pu‘u Kūkahau’ula and Waiau. As we hiked we all created sort of a bond. Though most of us had never met each other I felt as if we were ‘ohana. These hikes were not as easy as I had anticipated but together as a class we had supported each other to finish both hikes. For many of us it was our first time to Waiau, Pu‘u Kūkahau‘ula, and even Mauna Kea. For myself, I was able to grow as an individual and also as a Native Hawaiian. I got to experience all of the different forms of Mauna Kea from the mist of Līlīnoe to the water of Waiau. I am proud of myself for being able to hike in those elevations even though I have asthma. I was able to withstand all the elements so that I would be able to experience Mauna Kea. This is a day that will never be forgotten. I am going to take everything that I learned on this trip with me for the rest of my life. -Stasia Malepe

Mauna Kea is a very beautiful place and a place that shouldn’t be built on with more telescopes. This mountain is like a part of me and it has a life force that cannot be moved. -Anohea Nalimu

Lake Waiau

To see lake Waiau in its reverence and knowing its significance was

Lake Waiau

astounding and it left me speechless. To be in the presence of the mana was difficult. I felt a need, a fear, to run, hide, bow down and ask for forgiveness of our ancestors. Over all I am confused, not to go back, I have no kuleana there, or go back because I do. It may be necessary to make amends. This is the beginning of my Huaka‘i. – Lei Watson

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