Hawai‘i Island Outdoor Education Trip

Outdoor Education kumu Patrick McFadden ’07, Shelby Ho ’01 and Andy Nelson

After a pause during the pandemic, the annual trip to Hawai‘i Island was back up and running for fifth graders this January and February. A tradition that spans back to the early ’70s, the three-day trip centers around exploring Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The adventure is one of the highlights of the fifth grade experience and an important part of the Outdoor Education curriculum at Punahou that empathizes teamwork.

The team accompanying the students included Outdoor Education faculty, supporting teachers, Academy student counselors and a school nurse. Punahou photographer Kathleen Connelly was also on the scene to capture the joy of the journey.

We feel very grateful to help take students to Hawaiʻi Island to experience the magic of Kīlauea. Witnessing the excitement and awe students share when they see a native ʻapapane bird, the glow of Halemaʻumaʻu crater, and other sights and experiences unique to Hawaiʻi Island is an honor. 

Shelby Ho ’01, Outdoor Education faculty member

On the plane ride over, students got a start on journals created by the Outdoor Education department, which included information, games and space for reflections. They visited the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo where they learned about the star compass and stories related to Hawaiian constellations.

The fifth graders were well prepared on the culture, history and environment of Hawai‘i Island which allowed them to engage with the place deeper than just a visit.

Kathleen Connelly, Punahou photographer

During the trip, the group practiced “kilo,” which means to watch, observe, examine or forecast. They shared observations with each other while hiking through the sulphur banks at Volcanoes National Park. They honored the place by performing an oli at the edge of Kīlauea Caldera, looking towards Halema’uma’u Crater and Kīlauea Iki Crater.

The group stayed at Kilauea Military Camp in Volcanoes National Park. They took advantage of down time to bond as a class, explore the area while keeping an eye out for native birds, and journal about their observations.

Students hiked across Kīlauea Iki Crater accompanied by Academy senior counselors. Students wrote down their reflections in their journals before lunch.

Student embarked on another hike within the park, Devastation Trail. While exploring the trail, the group listened for birds and learned about geological features, such as Pele’s hair and tears. Anything found was appropriately left in its location after exploration.

After sunset in the park, students marveled at the glow from the volcano, while looking for the constellations they learned about at the ‘Imiloa Observatory.

During our night hike, we walked in silence to allow our senses to hone in on what the darkness can bring. As the ʻōhiʻa and koa trees thinned out and the glow of the crater began to appear, we heard students gasp in surprise at the sights of the night. ‘Mesmerizing,’ said one student.

Shelby Ho ’01, Outdoor Education faculty member

To cap off the trip, students took part in a service project led by a Park Ranger. This group removed nearly 8,000 stalks of invasive Kahili ginger.

One of the rewards of our job is seeing students rise to the occasion to help out, be kind, and make sure their individual actions impact everyone and the places they visit in a positive way. 

Shelby Ho ’01, Outdoor Education faculty

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