An Experience to Remember

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Photo: Kamali‘iokekai Akiona

By Kamali‘iokekai Akiona, Grade 9 – Mālama Honua Public Charter School

Last school year I worked at Paepae o Heʻeia for my capstone internship project. I really enjoyed working there; I learned much and am grateful for the experience.

At first I didn’t care to go to Paepae o Heʻeia, but what caught my interest was the fact we learned, for the most part, through action – something that I believe is sorely lacking in the school system. For example, I could not tell you a specific fact that I learned this school year, let alone before that. My brain filtered those things out as unimportant.

But for some reason, I can remember the process of planting dry land kalo – something I learned back in 7th grade, or how a waʻa operates from those times we went sailing in 6th grade. I can remember how to lash and I remember the first time we learned to make a ti leaf lei.

Working at Paepae o Heʻeia is also one of those experiences I will always remember.

Uncle Kanaloa, from Paepae o Heʻeia, taught us about the different problems and projects in the fishpond which include invasive fish, overgrown mangroves, and the need to build walls. There were many options and eventually we chose to make a kiʻo pua, which simply put, is a small enclosure for raising fish. We chose to make it out of what we had, which was mostly mud.

Uncle Kanaloa seemed to immediately love our school’s “Mind of the Navigator” skills, especially communication and collaboration. Together we designed our kiʻo pua and started to build. Through this project, we learned to improvise, adjust, and improve upon what we were doing, something that is good to know for life.

I’m not sure why, but I think people don’t completely grasp that we are all on one planet and every single action has an impact whether big or small.

Knowing this, our project can be seen as something small and insignificant as all we were doing is digging a pit to raise some fish. But I think that this mud pit of ours is a perfect display of mālama honua, because by simply doing our part in this seemingly huge – but actually small and connected world – we can make an impact. By increasing the population of native fish maybe it can start a chain reaction and change the world for the better.

At the end of it all, I deepened my understanding of balance in this world. From what Uncle Kanaloa taught us about the ecosystem and its delicate balance; how the mangroves, the fish, the sea, the reef –everything living, things that have died, and what we consider “matter” are all connected.

Because of this experience, I think I finally got a small step closer to the impossible task of completely grasping this universe or perhaps beyond what can never be perceived or understood.