Students travel island for geography course




Aloha! Many of our students devoted themselves to the well-being of a myriad of beloved places on Hawai‘i Island this Fall 2012 semester through direct connections with and tangible contributions to those places.

Students enrolled in Geography of Hawai‘i courses with me had a diversity of profound experiences on our huaka‘i (excursions). My students had the chance to visit every moku (district) of the Island of Hawai‘i and to journey both mauka and makai, to the highest mountaintop and to a wide variety of coastal environments, with forests and volcanic landscapes in between. We began this series of huaka‘i at Kalae in Ka‘ū in September and wound up at ‘Upolu in Kohala in December. These are some samples of our activities on these huaka‘i:

  • At Kalae (South Point), our closest link with Oceania, we visited and learned about wahi pana of the region including Palahemo, Kalalea, and Mōlīlele, and gave back to the area by carrying out a successful coastal clean-up along the cliffs of Kalae.
  • On the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea in Puna we engaged in an ecosystem restoration project in the lowland rainforest of Keauohana, and had the special opportunity to visit both the legendary crater of Pu‘ulena and the inspiring cape of Kumukahi.
  • We climbed Pu‘u Kehena to behold the ancient agricultural landscape of North Kohala, and then, implementing a famous local tradition, formed a human chain to move rocks to help create the foundation for a water catchment system for the ‘uala (sweet potatoes) cultivated there.
  • We again perpetuated the tradition of moving rocks, this time on Hualālai in Kona, to repair an access road that allowed us to arrive at our destination in the misty heights where their learning focused on native Hawaiian plants of that environment.
  • We visited a kīpuka mauka of Hilo and learned about the beautiful network of lava flows and the forest with its special grove of loulu palms, before heading to the Wailoa estuary to reflect on the waters of Waiākea, and then to Baker’s Beach to help clear a trail to a heiau.
  • Back on the slopes of Hualālai in a forest of centuries-old lama trees we learned about the ahupua‘a of Ka‘ulupūlehu and mo‘olelo associated with it, and helped to mālama the unique dryland forest through the removal of fountain grass.
  • At the summit of Mauna a Wākea we perpetuated a tradition of walking (hiking) and reverently spending quiet time at Pu‘ukūkahau‘ula and Waiau, with the function of providing positive personal and collective energy to the environments.
  • We outplanted ‘ōlapa, māmaki, koa, pilo, ‘a‘ali‘i, pāwale and other native plants at Keauhou near Volcano, and then paid our respects to Pele and her clan at the summit of Kīlauea, while appreciating its geologic and biotic importance.
  • Back in North Kohala, at ‘Ako‘ako‘a, a point affording a majestic view of the windward valleys from Pololū to Waipi‘o, we worked diligently to protect a grove of milo, and ended our huaka‘i at ‘Upolu, gazing out over the seas of ‘Alenuihāhā and ‘Alenuikāwahawaha towards Maui and what lies beyond.

And we wrapped up the semester with a class-time visit to Mokuola, the small island floating in Hilo Bay, reflecting on our learning, our connections, environmental stewardship and kinship, and the significance of wahi pana in our lives and in our communities.

It was an honor and privilege for all of us to visit, learn about and make a contribution to these wonderful places together. Such first-hand experiences are essential for deepening our understandings and relationships with place and people. Mahalo a nui loa for the leadership of and partnership with Nohea Ka‘awa, Ana Kon, Mālama Puna, Uncle Ala Lindsay and Ulu Mau Puanui, Keolani Keawe, Aunty Hannah Kihalani Springer, Uncle Don Pakele, The Carter-Yarbers of Ho‘ōla Ka Makana‘ā, Iwikau‘ikaua Joaquin, Three Mountain Alliance and ‘Imi Pono No Ka ‘Āina crew, Eldridge Naboa and the Pono Pacific crew, Kamehameha Schools (whose lands we were so often on and with), I Ola Hāloa and Kīpuka at UH-Hilo, and students Mahealani Pai, Kawehi Kahanaoi, Anna Leialoha, Puaonaona Kekahuna, Sammye Young, Kainana Francisco, Melissa Tavares, and many others.


Drew Kapp, Lecturer in Geography at Hawai‘i Community College

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