On Saturday, March 4, Punahou’s double-hulled sailing canoe, Kamaola, took part in the Kualoa/Hakipu’u Canoe Festival along with a dozen other canoes from various organizations. The festival is an annual public event that celebrates Hawaiian voyaging and honors the site where the Polynesian Voyaging Society first launched Hōkūle’a in 1975. This year the festival, led by Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy, invited canoes from across O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island.
The canoe’s journey from Mauliola (Sand Island) to the festival location, Hakipu’u, was its longest so far, marking a milestone for the Punahou Hawaiian Voyaging program, a place-based interdisciplinary learning experience offered through School’s Design Technology and Engineering curriculum. The canoe was unique as the only representative from a K – 12 school, and it was also the youngest canoe.
The festival provided an enriching educational experience for both the public and students. Prior to the public event, public school students from preschool to sixth grade from ‘Aikahi, Waiāhole Elementary School and others visited the site and the canoe. Academy students from Punahou’s voyaging program guided them through a star compass activity, knot-tying and an overview of the parts of a canoe.
During the festival, Punahou teachers and students ran a booth where the public could use VR goggles to experience celestial navigation aboard a canoe without leaving the beach. Faculty also led an activity about ulu fruit, which is believed to have first arrived to Hawai‘i via canoes at Hakipu‘u. Punahou’s wooden models of canoes and star compass puzzles also served as meaningful educational tools for the public.
Being invited and taking part in the festival was a significant moment for the voyaging program at Punahou. “Interacting with the past, present and future all at the same time, made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself,” said Kylie-Ann Smith ’23, a current Ke Kilohana student who’s been involved in the program for the past two years. “To be present and conduct traditional Hawaiian protocol around an ahu (sacred shrine) where Hōkūle’a first launched and then to work with elementary school keiki was so much fun. I hope we get invited back again.”