By Pete Johnson- Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher
Spring trips are a long-standing tradition at PNA. Although these trips are often to beautiful places, they are highly valuable educational experiences. I recently took 7th and 8th grade along with Ms. Molly to Maui to participate in a guided educational experience. Students learned about Hawaiian culture, history, plants, animals, and geology. In addition, students had experiences that were designed to foster confidence, collaboration, curiosity, and appreciation for the environment. Every day the kids had a specific responsibility which could be something like helping cook or teaching things during our evening meetings. Although this trip was packed with fun experiences, they provide rich educational experiences that support PNA’s educational philosophy. Below you can see some of our experiences on this trip, as well as a few pictures.
Class time! Today, a local environmental education teacher told students the geological story of the Hawaiian Islands as we explored the top of the Haleakalā crater and then drove down to where the most recent lava flow meets the sea! We took a 4-mile hike at the site of the flow, and we learned about what we were seeing. We ended the day with a nice swim in the sea.
We started out the day going to Uncle George Kahumoku’s beautiful organic farm in cool high-elevation rainforest. Uncle George is not only an organic farmer who uses many traditional plants and techniques, but he’s also a five-time Grammy-winning recording artist. He is a master Hawaiian slide guitar player, and he had us sing Hawaiian songs together while telling us stories. The kids participated in butchering a chicken and harvesting veggies that we turned into a delicious stew that we had for lunch. We learned all about traditional farming while helping to plant taro and other plants on his farm. We then went to Lao Valley for a guided tour with a local educator to learn more about Hawaiian history and spirituality.
We had another day full of adventures. We spent most of the day on the wet side of the island, where we hiked to Twin Falls and, along the way, learning about various plants and their uses. After that, we swam at a beach with turtles. We ended the day exploring the historic town of Lahaina. After the nightly meeting, several students laid on their backs on the grass at the campground and looked at the stars. I let them use the constellation identification app on my phone that they held up to the sky to see what they were looking at. While there in the quiet of the evening, they also pondered life’s big questions.
On day 4, we spent the heart of the day helping a local organization to restore the landscape of a valley near Lahaina that long ago had been deforested and then affected by invasive plants. While there, students learned about some of the plants they are replanting and their uses. After a nice lunch break, we went snorkeling and swimming. Everyone picked a different tropical fish to get to know and try to find while snorkeling. It was another great day.