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Maui trip showcases the real Hawaii

Trip educates students on the cultural and scientific aspects of Maui

Tess Harstrick, Staff Reporter
Originally published March 20, 2014

Even if you’ve never been, there’s no doubt you can gather an image of Hawaii in your mind. The white sand, water a light blue, luaus and coconut bras. Though the Hawaii most visit over mid-winter break is very much real and, at times, an accurate depiction of the islands, Maui trip leaders had a different, more local perspective. Their trip allowed students to experience a Hawaii that felt like a foreign country.

Maui trip initiator and science teacher Noam Gundle remembers his own high school Marine Science course as “the most important class I’ve ever taken in my life.” Remarking on the class’s ability to open one’s eyes to their surroundings, identify with what they see there, and teach valuable skills, Gundle initiated for the first time this year the two-week Hawaiian trip for students who had been through or were taking Biology.

“Maui is an amazing place to go because its almost like a foreign country, but it’s within the United States,” Gundle said. “Once you get there, you’re in a dramatically different environment. It also has a lot of biodiversity and complex ecological zones. On the one island, you can visit arid places, deep rain forests, lowland, highland, different elevations, and there’s all kinds of biological life that you can see in different areas.”

Trip supervisor and Maritime teacher John Foster saw a mix of modern American culture with ancient Hawaiian culture in Hawaii. “There’s some real remote areas, but they still have a Costco,” Foster said.

The Maui trip aimed to be culturally, historically, and scientifically informative, and not restricted to the scientific side of the trip. The 27 current or past Biology students who went to Maui experienced a variety of activities, from hiking and canoeing to snorkeling and surfing. The communal living, mess hall, various activities, and research projects combined created for some students a camp-like feel to the trip.

With three accompanying marine scientists, students conducted their own hands-on experiments that directly connected them to their environments, such as research projects on native trees, crabs, and whales. Sophomore Emma Raible found the trip balanced, if not light, in the ecology area, considering students got ecology credit for the trip.

“You can see the stars… because there’s not a lot of light pollution… ,” Raible said, remarking on the sunrise from a memorable trip at 4 a.m. to Mount Haleakala. “We did some star gazing with Foster, because he was teaching us about navigation.”

Gundle, too, remembers the magic of the trip, but for him the silence is what stood out, when he and his students descended the mountain.

“There was one moment when we were on the edge of a crater, looking down at this incredibly beautiful landscape, and the students said, ‘Let’s be quiet for a little while’,” Gundle said. “Just listening to the wind, listening to the birds, absorbing the place where they were, this incredibly beautiful, impactful place. I’m getting the chills just thinking about it.”


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Maui trip showcases the real Hawaii