Kumu Crew: Outreach in Newport News

April 28, 2016

In from Starr Johnson ‘98

Today was a particularly busy day engaging with the community of Newport News, Virginia. Kaniela and I worked with three other crew members who served on an education and outreach group to visit two schools.

We started at Hampton High School. There we visited a senior-level International Baccalaureate, Biology class in a school that is predominantly African-American. The class had been studying marine debris and was fully engaged and excited by our visit. Kaniela gave a powerful presentation about his experience finding marine debris on remote areas of Australia during another leg of the WWV, as well as a separate trip he took to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We fielded a bunch of fantastic questions they asked and sent them off with a keener sense of our mission to Malama Honua. One girl was particularly excited to hear that we would traveling through her homeland of Panama.

We then went to a school called New Horizons, which serves special-needs students of 6 surrounding districts (some students are bussed in from as far as two hours away). This school focuses on servicing students with emotional disturbances, developmental delays and/or autism. We had a group of 40 middle-school kids rotating through four 10-minute stations: creating aloha aina quilt squares, practicing knot tying and line throwing, learning a simple version of the star compass, and exploring life on the canoe with our voyaging gear.

The students were animated, engaged and hilarious. One kid told Duane, "You're talking. And I'm tired." We cracked up all day imagining the integration at his station. Their spirits were truly special and there were numerous teachers and helpers who said how memorable this day would be for the students. One teacher even said that it was the best engagement she felt the school had ever experienced in her seven years at the school. She explained that unfortunately their school usually gets passed over for educational enrichment that regular public and charter schools get to experience. This really touched us and reminded us of the power of education for all learners.

After a couple hours of rest following the school visits, the entire crew loaded up in a van to head to the Mariner's Museum at Newport News. There we were one of a four-part lecture series the museum has been conducting. We met with the board members, major donors and executives in one of the exhibition halls. Our current captain, Mark Ellis (who took over since Captain Bruce departed), and apprentice navigator, Jason Patterson, partnered to give a fabulous tag-team presentation. There were well over 300 people in attendance so to give a lecture with such composed delivery could not have been easy.

Our entire crew was very proud of them and the audience was clearly engaged and interested given the number of people who stayed late to get signatures and ask further questions. It is exciting that this community has taken such an interest in the story of Polynesian wayfinding and the voyagers of the modern-day. Given the number of students and adults we touched today we are expecting a large turnout at our canoe tours on Sunday. (That is assuming the thunder and lightning show that we are seeing this evening, moves out of the Chesapeake and Yorktown area.)

Aloha and mahalo for following!