Nineteen Punahou faculty and staff embarked upon a two-week, cross-cultural expedition to the remote islands of Tahiti and Rapa Nui during the summer of 2014, part of a professional development initiative organized by Wo International Center. The group was encouraged to establish connections with other educators in the Polynesian triangle while also solidifying interdepartmental bonds with their on-campus colleagues.
The Wo International Center led a group of 15-20 teachers on a two-week trip to China (Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an). The purpose of the trip was to provide teachers with a deeper understanding of China and to witness issues resulting from globalization.
By visiting educational and cultural institutions in these two African countries, teachers could compare and understand how the historical arrival of Islam and European countries influenced and changed the indigenous cultures. Discussions with hosting educators also deepened the American teachers' comprehension of economic and political development issues in Africa.
Teachers reveled at the chance to experience an ecosystem similar to that of Hawaii of long ago. They learned from Costa Rica's sustainability efforts in environmental preservation and economic globalization by visiting conservation sites and Fair Trade cooperatives. A short visit to Mexico preceding Costa Rica, illustrated the consequence of European conquests on Latin America cultures.
The teachers visited public and private schools on Honshu Island, stayed with farm families in the Wakayama mountains and visited recycling centers in Tokyo. They learned how Japan, an island country, needs to conserve resources and utilize its land wisely. As a result of this trip, second grade uses Japan as a model in the grade level's social studies theme of "island cultures".
Whether visiting a school or a village in Samoa and Aotearoa, the teacher group was greeted with a rousing combination of song and dance. The Punahou teachers saw many of our Hawaiian practices in the greater Polynesian context; and were touched by other countries' efforts at preserving indigenous cultures. After the trip, as a means of developing this same sense of group identity and pride at Punahou, the teachers of the 3rd grade and 9th grade social studies developed a cross-curricular hula project which reflects the rich history and tradition of Punahou School.
For most of the teachers on this inaugural trip, this was the first time visiting a country about which they had taught for many years. The opportunities to interact with fellow educators and experience their lives enabled both sides to transcend cultural stereotypes and led to true appreciation and understanding of each other's cultures. Thus the teaching of Chinese history and culture were further enriched at Punahou and many collaborative projects resulted.