Skip to Content

Sustainability News

July 3, 2019

Makalawena beachThanks to a partnership between Arizona State University and Kamehameha Schools in Hawai’i, people around the world can visit two of Hawai’i's natural and cultural sites without having to leave their computer.

ASU’s School of Sustainability and Center for Education Through eXploration (ETX Center) have collaborated with Kamehameha Schools on two virtual field trips (VFTs), including the recently released interactive and educational excursion to Makalawena. Makalawena is a beautiful, remote beach with many environmental and cultural resources located in West Hawai‘i.

Joe Tamer, assistant director of the ETX Center, said Kamehameha Schools provided local expertise of the two VFT sites (Makalawena and Kahaluʻu Ma Kai), access to subject matter and curriculum experts, and access to the locations to capture the media. The ETX Center provided expertise in technological aspects such as digital media capture and VFT design. Furthermore, the School of Sustainability served as the liaison for this project within the framing and context of the larger ASU and Kamehameha Schools partnership

“There are beautiful, remote places throughout the state rich in stories and lessons that cannot or even should not be easily accessed,” said media technology teacher Mathieu Williams, Hawai'i’s Teacher of the Year. “Virtual huaka‘i ensures everyone can gain a sense for the significance of these places, for the legacy and history forged here over generations, and perpetuate the lessons of these sites for years to come.”

Young students in a classroom taking a virtual classWilliams’s students were among the classes to provide feedback on the Makalawena VFT.

Virtual field trips are unique because they allow learners to create their own experiences within the digital environment by choosing which site elements to explore and learn more about. For example, in the Makalawena VFT, learners can choose to watch videos about coral reefs -- including foundational information, how coral spawns, and challenges affecting reefs such as coral bleaching.

“What was truly special about this project was the merger between sustainability science and culture,” Tamer said. “This was our first virtual field trip that was multilingual, providing learning opportunities in both the English and the Native Hawai’ian languages. It was an evolutionary step in our design of place-based immersive learning experiences.”

The ETX Center was selected as a partner based on its past work with virtual field trips built for NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We had demonstrated the ability to create place-based learning experiences that were exploratory and provided feedback to the learner based on choices and actions within that immersive environment,” Tamer said.

Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Ariel Anbar was the main ASU faculty member coordinating this project. He is the director of the ETX Center and a President’s Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Learn more about the project in a press release by Kamehameha Schools or explore the Hawai’i virtual field trips.