Virtual field trips offer Hawaii students chance to visit important historical sites

Virtual field trips offer Hawaii students chance to visit important historical sites
A new software program aims to take students to places in the islands that they couldn't otherwise visit. (Image: Kamehameha Schools)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kamehameha Schools is unveiling a new way to educate students about Hawaii’s historical sites across the islands ― with virtual field trips.

Virtual Huakai, which was showcased Tuesday at Kamehameha Schools’ EdTech conference in Honolulu, was created by the private school in partnership with Arizona State University.

The aim of the program: To create virtual “field trips” for students to see sites like Kahalu’u Ma Kai and Makalawena on Hawaii island without disturbing the ecosystem.

The project uses 360-degree video to take students on tours, including the 12-acre wetland of Makalawena, which was wiped out in the 1946 tsunami.

In 1972, the area was designated as a national natural landmark, and now is one of the last remaining nesting grounds for several species of endangered Hawaiian water birds.

“Virtual Huakai enable students across Hawaii – and the world – to connect with the aina and explore wahi pana like Makalawena in a way that provides virtual access with minimal impact and in a way they wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise,” said Kaimana Barcase, Kamehameha School’s West Hawaii regional director.

Kealakehe Intermediate’s Mathieu Williams, Hawaii’s teacher of the year, along with students and teachers from across West Hawaii were at the EdTech conference to talk about the program.

Williams has used it in his classroom and said it gives students an opportunity to visit places they otherwise couldn’t.

“It just opens their eyes, ears, and hearts, to what the meaning behind the place really means,” he said.

Students like Big Island eighth grader Kaninau Akana and seventh grader Mei Kanada say these experiences not only help their education, but also improve how they interact socially.

“I just think it allows me to connect personally to my background and my history, which will allow me to succeed in my school work, at home, or even how I treat or act with others,” said Akana.

Added Kanada: “To me, the focus that I was trying to find today was mo’olelo. I was born and raised here … and I wanted to learn more about this place."

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