About ten years ago, Miss Obenchain and Miss Parks created a seventh-grade field experience that would bring together both their subject areas: Humanities and Science. What better place to study adaptations of plants, animals, and people than on the island of Oahu! This trip allows our students to explore how many plants and animals have adapted to live on an island that was formed about five million years ago, which consisted of hardened lava. But over time, Polynesian settlers traveled there and brought life-sustaining plants and animals to the eight Hawaiian Islands. As transportation improved and man’s curiosity peaked, several groups of English and American settlers arrived to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, bountiful resources, and generous Native Hawaiians. Unfortunately, these settlers had a devastating effect on the land and people. After 1,000 years of relative peace among the Native Hawaiians, the Caucasian settlers brought smallpox, measles, and other contagious diseases. Additionally, these settlers saw the economic potential in the islands and bought land, created businesses, took over the government, commandeered Pearl Harbor for U.S. military use, spread Christianity, encouraged speaking English only, and many other monumental cultural changes. Because of these changes, there is a projection that there will be no Native Hawaiians left by the year 2040. This means that most Hawaiians are mixed with other races. Hawaii has truly become a cultural melting pot whether it wanted to be or not.
Another important topic that the seventh graders studied in preparation of their trip is the United States and Japan’s role in World War II. They looked at how Japan was changing in the 1930s and 1940s, and how these economic and government goals led them to take other countries’ resources. Then, they examined the attack on Pearl Harbor which happened on Dec. 7, 1941. The students looked at the reasons why Japan attacked the United States, the day’s events, and its aftermath. After their Hawaii trip this week, the seventh graders will be researching and learning about the atomic bomb dropping by the United States on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They will examine the events, as well as the short- and long-term consequences of these two choices. Although the seventh graders has spent this week on an island paradise, we want our Saklan students to understand, respect, and have compassion for the Hawaiian people and their environment.