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Nā Kālai Waʻa - Education and Programs

Pwo Chadd Paishon at Star Compass, Hālau Kaʻūpulehu

Nā Kālai Waʻa and Education

Nā Kālai Waʻa (NKW) has been offering educational experiences to our community since the birth of Makaliʻi in 1995. Programs range from a wide variety of sails to dry dock experiences and service to communities from Hawaiʻi Island and the larger Pacific.

Our pedagogy, our programs, reflect our vision statement, “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa” (our canoe is our island, our island is our canoe). Our curriclum is holistic and focuses on the relationship of all elements from our most fertile upland slopes to the deepest parts of our ocean. Through this pedagogy, programs are also able to focus on the individual's development and contribution to their own communities.  As kumu (teacher) and crew, our job is to recognize the strengths of each haumāna (students) in order to help them develop those strengths both as an individual and as part of the collective whole, the community.

The second most important component to our educational pedagogy is family learning. At NKW we build canoes and programs that build communities, but the core of our communities lies with our individual families. When families can engage in a program together, NKW found that their learning also continues after they have left our physical presence to return home. Family learning also contributes towards the healthy social development of our communities and our people.

Through the years NKW has found that the canoe is the perfect educational platform to engage learners, both local and international, in basic academics, especially math and sciences. These STEM programs are perfectly married to the cultural aspects of voyaging so well that often students don’t even realize that they are performing tasks from simple measurements and conversions of units to complicated physics formulas that determine speed. Program curriculum has been designed to best suit each group and program that visit us.  When our learners see the direct application of these STEM and other academic skills in a cultural setting, it is easy for them to see the relevance to their everyday lives as well.



Student Sail on KānehūnāmokuLearners are encouraged to participate in all aspects of our canoe programs, but it is realized that there may be restrictions with regard to time and funding. Here are several types of programs that NKW conducts. Please email us through our contact page or call us for more information on how you and your community can participate in our programs.


Sailing Programs

Sailing programs with NKW range in length and design from day sails out of Kawaihae harbor to week long sails up and down the coast of Hawaiʻi Island. The length and sail plan for each program is determined by the availability of the group. Learners must successfully complete a swim test in order to sail. The swim test may be conducted on the same day or in a previous session. Swim tests average two hours in length and include a 500-meter swim and forty-five minutes of treading water. The swim test is not only a measure of physical endurance but also of mental endurance as the group only moves as fast as the slowest swimmer, and always together. Sailing programs have been instrumental in the development of young individual’s personal development and community building abilities.


Drydock Programs   

Drydock is a essential part of the holistic nature of canoe culture. During drydock, learners are exposed to the importance of vessel maintenance. Through drydock programs NKW emphasizes the Hawaiian value of Mālama, to take care of. Most drydock programs center around the mālama (maintenance) of Makaliʻi, our main voyaging vessel. Participants have the opportunity to learn lashing, vessel engineering, and other tasks related to maintaining the sea-going integrity of Makaliʻi. Learners become very familiar with canoe parts and how each part is related to the other parts, a direct reflection of our own community's make-up.

Drydock programs range in length from one day to one week depending on the needs of the canoe and the group.

See our current 2015-2016 Drydock schedule.


Professional and Personal Development Workshops

Nā Kālai Waʻa offers a series of activities and lessons that help develop individuals as Hualalai Keohuloa and son lash Makaliʻileaders and groups as affective collaborative units. These activities range from trust building excercises to cultural workshops on wahi pana (significance of place), mea noʻeau (work styles and crafts of Hawaiʻi), and pilinakanaka (developing relationships to self and others). Most activities take about an hour and are designed for groups of 10-20 per activity. 


School Visits

Captains and crewmembers of Makaliʻi often are asked to visit schools and programs across the state to share their knowldege and lifestyles of voyaging. The main focus for many school visits is the vision of the organization: "He waʻa he moku he moku he waʻa" Our canoe is our island and our island is our canoe. School visits include presentations by captains and crewmembers and hands on activities from learning mele and ʻaihaʻa from the canoe to making model canoes.  

Navigation Workshops and Presentations

NKW also offers workshops and presentations on non-instrument navigation and way-finding. During these workshops, learners are introduced to the star compass, the one used by Papa Mau Piailug as well as the one adapted by Nainoa Thompson and the Polynesian Voyaging Society. They are also introduced to the four major starlines used in Hawaiian navigation and the elements used for navigation.

Workshop lengths vary from one hour to one weekend.  Most of these workshops are best suited for specific sites although they can be adapted to any site required. Please visit our SITES page for more information on those sites associated specifically with navigation.

Nā Kālai Wa`a Contact Information

address: P.O. Box 748, Kamuela, HI 96743

office: Waimea Office Center, 65-1206 Mamalahoa Hwy, Suite 1-101, Kamuela, HI 96743

phone: 808-885-9500     fax: 808-887-1144     facebook:

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