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Spring 2018 discovers the Aloha spirit in Hawaii

At 08:00 on January 12, 2018, the MV World Odyssey docked in it’s first port of the spring voyage: Honolulu, Hawaii. With cabin fever settling in, students were excited to step off the ship for the first time and take advantage of the warm, sunny island.

Students listen to stories from Hawaiian sailors with the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Voyagers participated in a range of activities due to the fact that students had to enroll in either a field class or field program to leave the ship. Some excursions focused on climate change and environmental factors on the island, while others on experiencing and dissecting local culture. For faculty member Megan Lewis, her first field class was a major success.

Lewis teaches Film and Social Change, which has focused on communicating climate change science through documentary film. Her field class took students to the University of Hawaii to receive a talk on climate science from Chip Fletcher, a professor of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After that, students toured the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s headquarters where they met with a Hawaiian filmmaker who recently created a documentary on the society.

Students in the Environmental Conservation course enjoying a snorkeling excursion.

“Chip Fletcher just told so many stories about the science that made it come alive for them and affirmed so much but taught them even more,” Lewis said, “And then combining that with Hawaiian indigeneity and spirit, I think it marries science, art and storytelling all through documentary film.”

On the other side of Oahu, students in the Environmental Conservation course visited Paepae o He’eia fishpond where they learned about Hawaiian methods of aquaculture that promotes economic and ecological sustainability.

“These fishponds are much better than the modern aquaculture nets. Here the water can flow freely, so chemicals and antibiotics don’t need to be fed to the fish. It’s a great way to conserve resources and feed a population,” said Deborah Beal, who leads the course.

Voyagers shared a variety of experiences in Hawaii, many that squashed the misconceptions about Hawaiian people and their culture. Alex Nalbach, director of Global Studies, has been adamant about his course’s role in teaching students to really understand and engage with new cultures.

Voyagers get a taste of sailing on Hokolea, a Polynesian canoe.

“This is a huge opportunity to break out of the constraints of the worldview that you knew,” Nalbach said, “For example, in Hawaii, the concept of Aloha spirit is something that we wanted students to understand and the idea that the divine is everywhere, that everything is alive and can be happy if you treat it well.”

Overall, students had a blast and when the time came for students to board the ship once again, many were not yet ready to leave.

“My field class made me hopeful that we can come together and change the world,” said Paige Hornbaker, Spring 2018 voyager.


  • Education
  • Life at Sea

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