Hilo to Honolulu: First-Year Students Study Hawaiian Culture, Education

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Waipio Valley Lookout

Mauna Kea

West Hawaii Explorations Academy

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau marine refuge

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau marine refuge

Punaluu black sand beach

Akaka Falls in Hilo

Weeding taro at an elementary school garden

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

Iolani Palace

Tongan drumming at the Polynesian Center

Lanikai Beach

January isn't so cold for several Albion College students who took education professor Suellyn Henke's first-year seminar "Mauka and Makai: A Sense of Place and Education in Hawai’i." Five students (along with upperclass mentor Elaine Starkey and registrar Drew Dunham) toured parts of Hilo and Oahu, visiting a school, national parks, and other places, learning about Hawaiian culture and educational opportunities offered by the unique community and environment.

Below are some of their comments about the places they visited.

At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, for a hike and a visit to the interpretive center: "It was cool to see petroglyphs preserved in the lava flows in the park," one student commented. "We learned that the goddess Pele was an important aspect to worship in ancient Hawaii."

"The Waipio Valley Lookout showed how beautiful God's creations are," said Dillon Young. "We also were able to see where Hawaii held the battle that made it into what it is today."

"We climbed 9,000 feet to Mauna Kea where we saw the sunset and stargazed. Both experiences were beyond beautiful," said Sarah Likens. "The trip to Mauna Kea shows how small we are in such a vast world and that there is so much to see and experience."

At the West Hawaii Explorations Academy, a grade 6-12 school. "School is held completely outdoors and students do hands-on projects with a shark tank, a reef tank, aquaponics, and more," said Sarah Likens. "If it rains, class is canceled, but since it is the sunniest point in the United States that doesn't happen very often."

"By far, my favorite part of Day 4 was going to the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau marine refuge! Not only was it an amazing part of Hawaiian history and culture, but the shoreline was filled with beautiful tide pools," said Kelsey Redwantz. "Each tide pool was its own little community filled with sea urchins and cute little fish. While exploring the pools, I found a turtle a mere five feet away! When exploring even further, we found even more!"

Students weeded taro at an elementary school garden. "The largest concentration of native Hawaiian heritage population lives on the Waianae Coast. INPEACE (Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture) is a nonprofit organization that supports the well-being of native Hawaiians," said professor Suellyn Henke. "We were able to visit an elementary school with a cultural outdoor classroom that incorporates native Hawaiian traditional planting knowledge and a Hawaiian language immersion program."

"Pearl Harbor was eerie and solemn mixed with hope, pride, and remembrance--such a strange feeling," said Kelsey Redwants. "When walking through the museums, barely a word was spoken. At the USS Arizona Memorial, there was more silence as visitors gazed down at the battleship, the final resting palace of 1,177 of her crew members. I'm not sure if I'll ever return to Pearl Harbor because of how emotionally draining it was, but I will definitely remember the experience."

"The tour of Iolani Palace reiterated a lot that we learned in class. It was great to hear our guide tell a story that I already knew while still learning more," said Sarah Likens. "I am thankful that the Hawaiians allow people all over the world tour the palace which is something near and dear to their hearts."

"At the Polynesian Center. we were able to learn about many different cultures, playing their native games and seeing shows," said Dillon Young. "I was lucky enough to be in one, playing with the Tongan drum master. It was a great experience."

"One of my favorite things as an incoming freshman at Albion College was my First Year Seminar, Makua & Makai," said Sarah Edwantz. "I am so thankful to have created good relationships with my classmates, mentor, and professor. Having the opportunity to then travel to Hawaii to expand our learning was a wonderful experience and will carry the memories and knowledge with me as I continue to go forward in life."