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Kamehameha Schools develops high-tech ‘virtual huaka‘i’ for educational field trip to Makalawena

HONOLULU (June 4, 2019) – Kamehameha Schools has launched its new educational virtual huaka‘i or field trip which highlights the environmental and cultural treasures at Makalawena, a remote wahi pana or special place that is part of Kamehameha Schools’ land holdings in North Kona in West Hawai‘i.

This innovative online educational resource is being showcased at KS’ EdTech Conference this week as a way to bring exploration and understanding of Hawai‘i’s sacred places to classrooms across the world. Kealakehe Intermediate’s Mathieu Williams, Hawai‘i’s Teacher of the Year, and his students provided feedback on the virtual huaka‘i and will present their work to EdTech attendees in an in-depth look at the value of virtual huaka‘i and how ‘āina-based education can effectively fuse with today’s media and technology.

Haumāna (students) and kumu (teachers) from across West Hawai‘i collaborated on the pilot testing of the project. Along with Kealakehe Intermediate, other participating schools included:

  • Kohala Middle School and kumu Erika Blanco.
  • Ke Kula ‘O ‘Ehunuikaimalino and kumu Alapa‘i Kaulia.
  • Konawaena Middle School and kumu Kevin Hoag. 

“With this project, we bring the mo‘olelo or stories of our kūpuna together with the natural and cultural riches of this unique place to create educational tools for our kumu that are grounded in modern technology and ‘āina-based learning,” Kaimana Barcarse, KS’ West Hawai‘i Regional Director, said. “Virtual huaka‘i enable students across Hawai‘i – and the world – to connect with the ‘āina and explore wahi pana like Makalawena in a way that provides virtual access with minimal impact and in a way they wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise.”

In ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i or English, students are able to virtually experience Makalawena and explore in depth the various historical, cultural and environmental features via a variety of multi-media methods including  interactive 360-degree video, high resolution photographs and interviews with resource managers.

“There are beautiful, remote places throughout the state rich in stories and lessons that cannot or even should not be easily accessed,” said Williams, who teaches media technology.  “Virtual huaka‘i ensures everyone can gain a sense for the significance of these places, for the legacy and history forged here over generations, and perpetuate the lessons of these sites for years to come.”

In April of 2016, an educational partnership was formed between KS and Arizona State University to develop a series of virtual huaka‘i, beginning with Kahalu‘u Ma Kai in West Hawai‘i.

Students will join Williams for a featured session entitled “Fusing the Possibilities of Media and ‘Āina Based Education,” demonstrating the value of using 21st-century technology to connect students of today to stories of the past that may guide the future.  The presentation will take the audience through the creative process, mindset and experiences involved with using STEM application and technology to further experiential, ‘āina-based learning. The session will offer tools, best practices and collaborative opportunities to make place-based learning commonplace.

Virtual huaka‘i enables Kamehameha Schools to share the natural and cultural resources it cares for without disturbing the sacred ecosystems and sites, making place-based learning possible everywhere. Visit the virtual huaka’i resource website to access both the Kahalu‘u Ma Kai and Makalawena virtual huaka’i, along with expanded kumu resources to utilize in the classroom.