25.10.19 Study trip to the University of Hawai'i

Nine students of the diploma project Global Learning together with their lecturer Gerit Jaritz went on a unique study trip to Hawai'I at the beginning of October. As part of the project «Teaching and learning for a globalized and yet sustainable world» (a project that is partially financed by Movetia, the National Agency for  Exchange and Mobility) they participated in a multifaceted and intensive programme which was organized by the project partners at the College of Education at the University of Hawai'I (UH).

The topics Culture, Place and Education were the cornerstones of the visit and represented the basis not only of the lectures at college but also of the numerous excursions and school internships in a number of ways. The connecting element hereby was the «education to support sustainable development» which, at the same time, represents the major issue of the joint project with the University of Hawai'i. During the first week the students visited sessions at the College of Education with the aim of a better understanding of Hawai'i's complex history.

During the excursions to a re-activated Taro field and a traditional fish pond, the group of students got to know the reasons for the 100-percent self-sufficiency of the inhabitants of the Hawaiian islands in former times. The realization of the importance of the waterways leading from the rainy mountains down to the coastal areas was essential. Therefore, the islands were originally classified in different ecological regions, the so called Ahupua'a. All this was clearly explained to the visitors during the various stops on their trip from Waikiki up to Manoa. It also became clear to what extend the Hawaiian Islands have actually been going backwards in respect to sustainability and self-sufficiency. Therefore, the reactivation of native Hawaiian knowledge as well as the development of a distinct sense of place represent goals which play an increasingly important role, not only in teacher training but also in schools.
An impressive shift in perspective also occurred in respect to climate change. The project participants went on a guided walk through Waikiki together with a marine geologist. They learnt that the people of Hawaii have already actively started to fight against higher sea levels and the corresponding loss of beaches. It was very hard for everybody to image that there might not be any beach in less than 50 years' time. Subsequently, the phenomenon of coral bleaching as well as the consequences and reasons for the extinction of plankton were vividly explained during the visit of the Waikiki aquarium and Coconut Island which represents the University's research island. The group even went on a snorkelling excursion to have a close look on-site. At that stage the students of both Universities remembered what they heard and saw during their trip to the Morteratsch glacier. The fact that they had experienced two very different but similar severe consequences of climate change within such a short period of time had a sobering effect on all participants. On the other hand, these experiences helped to considerably raise awareness of the extent of climate change. It furthermore became clear how important it is to work together to design a more sustainable future.
On various occasions during the study trip it became clear that you have to know and understand any subject matter before you can really value and sustain it. This is similarly true for school children and teachers. As such, there is justified hope that the manifold teaching and project ideas which arose during the trip will indeed find their way into the classroom.

The beginning of this transfer was already achieved during the internships at different Hawaiian primary schools which took place in the last week of the study trip. The participants not only had the chance to get a valuable insight into a different school system but also gave lessons which were planned in common and which dealt with topic of the project «education to support sustainable development». The students were welcomed very heartily at the different schools. During the lessons they were highly motivated and very professional, thus mastering the challenge to teach complex contents in an unknown context in a foreign language with flying colours.

Text: Gerit Jaritz