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The Value of the Voyage

The Value of the Voyage
June Pepper

Our inquiry involving The Power of Look has been moving full steam ahead. Over the last few weeks, we have been engaged in authentic learning centered around our wonder of how we know how to go from one place to another. The children were confident that the Power of Look was key in formulating a memory to guide them in their journeys, and they came up with a working definition:

“The Power of Look is a memory. It’s something you know when you use your senses and your memory.”

But as the children reflected on their drawings of their journeys on campus, we wondered whether their documentation of their memories would be enough to guide someone who didn’t already have the same memory. In other words, could someone who had never been on our campus follow the children’s drawings and successfully go on the same journey? How can we pass along the knowledge to someone who has not yet experienced the journeys that we know?

And with that, we launched into a study of maps and wayfinding.


We examined a map of a place that almost everyone had been to: the Honolulu Zoo. The children noticed elements that they thought were particularly helpful, such as perspective in the form of a bird’s eye view, simplicity, landmarks, symbols, and directionality.

In order to understand directionality, the children experimented with a compass to become familiar with the concept of north, south, east, and west. They found where north was within our classroom, and they used their Power of Look and observed, over several days, from where the sunlight entered our classroom to correlate it with east. The Honolulu Zoo map also introduced to them the idea of mauka (toward the mountain) and makai (toward the ocean).

Then, our Educational Technologist, Mrs. Kihe, helped the children to gain a perspective of our campus from a bird’s eye view. She flew a drone across the campus as the children followed along, and later we watched the footage in our classroom to re-live the journey from 200 feet in the air!

Watching the drone take flight from the ball field.

Our study of maps is on-going as the children apply their understanding of what makes an effective map to their next iteration of drawings of our campus in order to share their knowledge with others.


As is the nature of inquiry, yet another wondering arose during our map study that gave us pause. What if we didn’t have a compass? What if we couldn’t see any landmarks? How would we know how to go? Could we go at all? We marveled at an image of the Hokuleʻa, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, in the middle of the vast ocean, and we embarked on an exploration of wayfinding concurrent with our study of maps.

A visit to our classroom by Russell Amimoto – a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, crew member and captain of the Hokuleʻa, and father of a fellow Mid-Pacific Elementary student – provided the children with an authentic opportunity to learn about wayfinding. He talked about celestial navigation and introduced the children to the Hawaiian Star Compass. He shared his knowledge of watching nature for navigational signs – waves, currents, clouds, sea creatures and birds. He shared his many experiences on the Hokule‘a, and his stories and photos made the voyage come alive for the children.

Russell Amimoto speaks to the children about the Hokule‘a

The Power of Look Redefined

Though our inquiry journey is still continuing, the children reflected on their experiences so far and thought it important to re-define their idea of the Power of Look:

“The Power of Look is something you know by using your senses and your memory. It becomes something that you won’t forget. It’s a treasure and a feeling in your heart. You can pass your knowledge on to the generations. It’s something you have to take care of.” – The Children of I‘iwi 10


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