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By Beverly Creamer

HONOLULU, Hawaii (January 22, 2000 – The Honolulu Advertiser)---"Ooooohhhhh," exhaled the fourth-graders at Mililani Mauka Elementary School, as Hokule‘a navigator Nainoa Thompson delighted them with stories of Rapa Nui, taking the lessons of voyaging home to the constituency he cares about the most: Hawai‘i’s children.

"The nose of the mo‘ai was BIGGER than ME," he said leaning toward a sea of upturned faces hanging on his description of the island’s famed stone statues. They asked things that kids think about, including Henry Yee Hoy’s question: "Did you go to any stores to have real food?"

Chuckling, hugging and spinning wondrous stories, Thompson took two hours out of his hectic schedule of preparations yesterday to help make the historic voyages of the Polynesian Voyaging Society canoe real for a chop suey mix of children on Oahu’s central plain.

He leaves this afternoon for Tahiti to rejoin Hokule‘a for Friday’s departure for home. It’s the last leg of the canoe’s journey to Rapa Nui that began last June 15 in Hilo.

This final trip will complete 90,000 miles of voyaging in a quarter century and close the Polynesian Triangle that’s bounded in the north by Hawai‘i, in the south by New Zealand and the east by Easter Island.

"I had bad dreams last night," Thompson told the youngsters grouped at his feet. "I get scared because of the risk, and the responsibilities of a leader… But getting scared is part of the preparation. It keeps you alert. It keeps you from making mistakes."

As impressed as she was meeting Hawai‘i’s first star navigator in 600 years, 9-year-old Leanne Westrick couldn’t quite imagine going on Hokule‘a herself. "I get seasick," she explained. "But I guess I could do it if I was still connected to the dock."

To fourth-grade teacher La-Verne Tada, who clicks onto the Internet every morning when Hokule‘a is sailing so students can follow its progress, the dream is already being passed on.

"They feel they know him," she said of Thompson. "Some children said they’d like to be just like that. But how?"

"They don’t have to be like me," Thompson said afterward. "They just have to be clear about what their dreams are and never let them go."

For Hokule‘a, which culminates 25 years of voyaging in homecoming ceremonies March 12 at Kualoa Regional Park, the dreams will continue.

Once the canoe has returned, and completes a statewide sail visiting 31 Hawai‘i communities, work will begin to create "Ocean Learning Center" to offer world-class preparations for all areas of ocean experience.

"I want to get our kids prepared for ocean-based careers," Thompson said. "Just to inspire kids without the educational tools, they don’t have a lot of places to go."

Fund-raising will begin soon to build a half-million-dollar, 21st century catamaran designed by students and fitted out with high-tech equipment for research and monitoring of Hawai‘i’s ocean and shorelines.

The canoe and the catamaran will bridge "both sides of the time line," Thompson said.

"Young people need to grow up with the history and heritage as well as the future."

Thompson envisions further expansion of educational offerings at every level – elementary through college. The Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Moanalua Gardens Foundation, which offers the "Let’s Go Voyaging" teaching program through its Web site and classroom materials, have prepared curriculum used throughout the state.

Part of the new curriculum also includes the concept of "Malama Hawai‘i," concentrating on values, including care of the ocean and shorelines.

"It’s about using the values of caring for the island and each other," said Carnation Damon, who teaches Hawaiian Studies at Mililani Mauka.

For the future, Thompson raises the possibility of eastward voyages by Hokule‘a – to Micronesia, the home of his mentor, Satawalese navigator Mau Piailug – and to Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan, from where the ancestors of so many of Hawai‘i’s people have come.

"It needs to be sailed by another generation," he said. "Each voyage begins with a dream."



Hawaii school classes can schedule satellite phone hookups with the Polynesian Voyaging Society canoe Hokule‘a as it sails home from Tahiti beginning Friday.

Visit the PVS Web site at http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/pvs. Answer questions posed by navigator Nainoa Thompson by February 2, and fax your answers to the Moanalua Gardens Foundation at (808) 839-3658.

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