This week, the Polynesian Voyaging Society prepares to sail from American Samoa down to Tonga for the next leg of the Worldwide Voyage. Since leaving Hawai’i in May, Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia have sailed over 4,000 miles, encountering almost every kind of wind and weather condition imaginable. However, the sailing aspect is only a small portion of what the voyage is actually about. The true driver behind this voyage is the mission to Mālama Honua—”care for Island Earth”—and we believe that nothing is more important than empowering the next generation. Not surprisingly, one of the goals of the voyage is to reach out to as much youth as possible through education.
Truth be told, many of the highlights for crew members happen not at sea, but on land. Imagine arriving at a place where crowds of people whom you’ve never met greet you with smiles, hugs and sometimes teary eyes. In each of the places that we’ve sailed to in the Pacific, communities have treated us with such warmth and generosity that it often feels like we’ve “come home” and are being greeted by family. For each community that we engage with, it is often challenging to adequately convey our gratitude, no matter how many times we say thank you/mahalo/mauru’ uru/fa’afetai/kia ora. This is another reason that education outreach is so important for the Worldwide Voyage, because it serves as a sustainable gift that we can offer to current and future generations within that community.
Education in Port
The most direct way that crew members conduct education outreach within a community is to set up activity stations at the docks where the canoes are. These dockside activities are unique because they enable community members to touch and stand on the canoes, an experience that cannot be replicated through words or images. In addition to canoe tours, there are also numerous other activities that draw on the strengths of crew members, from knot tying to science experiments to explaining traditional navigation.
Education at Sea
Unlike previous Hōkūleʻa voyages, this current voyage has the added benefit of having Hikianalia, which serves as an education and science platform for continued outreach while the canoes are at sea. This ensures that individuals and classrooms that are interested in the voyage can continue to receive updates, videos, photos, and blogs from crewmembers on a consistent basis. This has been a game changer for educators, students, and the general public who are interested in the stories that happen at sea.
Connecting with Classrooms
One other way that crew members connect to communities through education is to visit schools directly. Before departing on a leg, each voyager is required to “adopt” a school of their choice and maintain a connection with that school before, during, and after the leg. Additionally, school visits in port are also a popular activity whenever possible. Though language and cultural boundaries may exist, there is always learning and fun to be had.
The Right Investment
As is generally the case for teachers, it is often hard to know what kind of impact you have on students until further down the road. So with each stop along the voyage, we may never know what kind of impact the voyage will have on the host communities. But, if even one child in each school stops to think, then act, then lead their community to care for their land and oceans, then the voyage will be successful. If we can help potential change-makers gain the support and momentum they need to continue, then the voyage will be successful. As crew member Lehua Kamalu eloquently states: the Worldwide Voyage, at its very core, “is an investment in the Earth… an investment in the future.”
Although we may not know the impacts until long after we’ve sailed around the world, every individual that believes in this voyage believes that it’s an investment worth making.