The learning process on this program is based on both experiential and academic modes of learning. We interact with people of Hawaiian descent and are immersed in their cultural and natural worlds for most of our six weeks on the island. Our learning proceeds primarily from our Hawaiian hosts’ instruction and our experiences working on local projects. We meet as a group to discuss and integrate these experiences. We employ familiar methods such as readings, lectures, discussions, and student presentations, but these activities do not take place in libraries or classrooms. We work together to create academic study contexts while visiting, traveling, hiking, and car camping.
This program is quite different from other Sierra Institute programs and on-campus courses in the following respects. Our primary learning contexts are Hawaiian cultural worlds rather than wilderness backpacking trips. We “earn” our positions as students of Hawaiian life not by simply signing up for the course, but by working side-by-side with people of Hawaiian descent on projects of importance to local communities. On some segments of our journey our learning process is dependent upon making a significant contribution through our work to a local project. This is an unusual “learning contract”—our enthusiastic participation in the job at hand opens the way for Hawaiians to teach us about their lives, heritage, and cultural revitalization efforts.
This is a mobile program. We travel by van to several locations, staying at each site for between three and eight days.
With full enrollment we can have thirteen people traveling in two seven-person vans. We use roof luggage bags, but—especially after a shopping trip—the vans can be crammed with people, gear, and food. This calls for patience, a sense of humor, and careful packing.
At parks and farms we camp in tents and cook on camp stoves. On other segments we stay in residential facilities with bunkbeds and cook in kitchens.
On past programs our physical activities have included pulling up invasive non-native plants, clearing and weeding taro fields, removing debris and overhanging branches from stream channels, and maintenance work on a traditional sailing vessel. Plan to put your shoulder to the wheel, commensurate with your physical capacity, and to participate fully in the work at hand.
We will dayhike in striking landscapes and swim in the ocean, but—unlike on other Sierra Institute programs—we will not backpack in wilderness regions.
Weather and equipment permitting, we will sail a traditional, double-hulled vessel for a few days, accompanied by a motorized support boat for safety. We will remain within sight of the island and will probably return to land to camp at night.
Expect our schedule and plans to change! Our hosts have graciously opened their cultural work and personal lives to us, but—just like anyone else—their work and lives are in constant flux. Therefore we can expect the time, location, and nature of interactions with our hosts to vary from our original plan on occasion.
Weather can alter our plans! Most of our activities depend on appropriate weather. We are likely to encounter inclement weather at some point. For example, in 2005 one of two visits to Waipi’o Valley was cancelled due to heavy rain and we were able to sail the Makali’i for only one day due to lack of wind. In 2006 we were not able to sail at all due to high wind.
When our schedule changes for one reason or another, please recall that, although the lack of an activity is unfortunate, our main purpose is to learn through engagement with our Hawaiian hosts. Our hosts will probably propose an alternative project that affords great learning opportunities.
Our oceancraft instructors require that we possess minimum swimming skills for safe sailing. To demonstrate competence, we swim several laps as a group in the ocean, adjacent to the dock.
We usually have access to emergency response services, hospitals, and medical assistance. I have training in wilderness first aid, but I am not a health care professional. In event of an emergency I will do my best to get you promptly to proper care. I will establish basic safety procedures at the beginning of the program
CAMPING & HIKING EQUIPMENT
Participants provide their own personal equipment. Group items (tents, stoves, pots) are shared by everyone and organized by the instructor. A detailed equipment list will be sent upon acceptance.
We have access to kitchens at some residential facilities and cook on backpacking-type camp stoves in campgrounds. We have access to restaurants on resupply days. We usually prepare our hot meals within subgroups of three or four. Those “cook groups” do their own meal planning and food purchasing. Your total food cost will depend upon group and personal decisions. Food in Hawaii can be expensive—much of it is flown in from the mainland. Your food costs will be significantly higher than at home. Expect to spend approximately $20/day for food—the actual amount will vary depending upon individual and “cook group” choices.
On the Kona (leeward) coast the weather is usually hot (average 81 degrees) and dry. On the windward coast the weather is usually moderate or cool and rainy. When we ascend to higher elevations, such as at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we encounter cool or cold weather.