At the BoraBora wharf for their last night in this interesting place. There have been changes afoot for the French Polynesia - Aitutaki leg. With the success of the women's crew yesterday as they sailed into BoraBora they have been invited to sail with Captain Magnus to Aitutaki on board the Hine Moana. There will be 16 women doing all the nautical jobs associated with the efficient sailing of a drua. In an earlier article we had discussed the possibility of this happening and it's come to fruition thanks to the foresight of the Pacific Voyagers. We wish the Uto women well and in the same breath we have no doubt that they will be successful.
As a result of Uto's three women [Iva, Filo and Aggie] moving to Hine we are hosting four men from the Hine during the sail to Aitutaki. We will introduce them to you. There's Johnnnywel, and Kaltavag from Vanuatu and Cliff from Tiikopia, a Solomon Islands Polynesian outlier. David is a marine biologist from Cabo Pulmo, Mexico.
The Pacific Voyagers have been charged and challenged with perhaps one of the most difficult tasks to do. It's not mastering the uli or learning the ropes, it's developing a communicative style that suits their personalities and their target audiences. Before we explore strategies and formats let's try and answer that age old question....."What traits make up an effective communicator"? "Who can become an effective communicator"? Just as folding sails, tying knots and manning the uli are all skills learned through practice, communicating thoughts, ideas, concepts and emotions are all developed through practice. Some people, regardless of age or experience, are "naturals" at sailing, but even more can develop sailing skills through practice. The same holds true for effective communication.
People will differ with precise definitions of a communicator. Here are a few thoughts to add to the discussion. Effective communicators must learn to observe and listen and be attuned to their social and natural environment around them. They must know the traits of their target audience. One does not talk about nuclear physics with a pre-school class unless there is a definite objective and even more difficult a strategy for making the concept interesting, understandable and motivational for that age group! However there are many salient topics that can be presented and discussed with pre-schoolers that are relevant to our PV goals and objectives and consistent with our vision. By sincerely listening and reflecting, communicators get a better picture of who they are dealing with and at what level they should focus on.
As communication is meant to be dialogue more than monologue the communicators must be aware of sharing thoughts and ideas, understanding who they are talking with and making their presentation pointed using familiar references and simplified concepts and processes where necessary.
What of the presentation? A visual aspect can greatly assist the audio. There is such a thing as too many words without relevant illustrations. Particularly when we are dealing with young people their attention span broadens when there are graphic “visual” components to help illustrate the descriptions and concepts requiring visualisation. A presentation can be greatly enhanced by using "realia" - those objects from nature that reinforce and become focal points for lasting learning. One example that could help focus attention regarding "acidification" of the oceans and "acid rain" over the land would be a brief demonstration using the recognisable Coca-Cola liquid. As coke is carbonated water [carbonic acid] with special flavour additives, it is a mild acid much like the acid that is building up in the oceans and eating away at any structure with a calcium carbonate base - namely coral and limestone reefs! For younger audiences the actual chemistry, for example mentioning the chemical components, is not necessary as the spectacular visual impact of coke dissolving coral is enough to accomplish that objective.
For acid rain, the chemistry is slightly different. Particulate matter that is emitted from factories contains sulfur compounds that when dissolved in rain water becomes a mild sulfuric acid. Rainfall from such clouds has a devastating effect on many rock surfaces. Using a spray bottle with a mild acid and spraying a variety of surfaces audiences can observe firsthand the affect "acid rain" has on things around us. In both instances the key focal points have to do with the impact man, through his unthinking actions, is having on parts of the environment. As man is causing these problems man can eliminate them too. It is our job as communicators to convey the entire message from description of the problem to causes and finally to possible solutions.
Most people do not want to be lectured to or preached at therefore we need to engage them in the process through motivational displays, pointed questions and illustrations made relevant to their particular environment. A sense of urgency can be an important tool to employ. It is not necessary to quantify information quoting statistics on percentages of this or amounts of that, it is however of paramount importance to capture the essence, that kernel of truth that will make concepts relevant.
Environmental education should not solely be the domain of the professional educator. Having teachers and lecturers support the messages of hope that Pacific Voyagers bring is a significant plus. However voyagers are both "marine" missionaries and messengers. They will have had personal experiences that while unique to them are well worth sharing and that's where effective communication plays an important role.
I have personally observed young Fijian voyagers who have no formal teacher training courses of any kind enthrall a group of pre-school children in Tautira with traditional song and dance while sharing their thoughts on saving the oceans at that level and then an hour later communicate a passionate plea for the plight of porpoises, sharks and rays to a high school group. Of course the ubiquitous Fijian smile accompanied the presentations as did a few tried and true songs!
Did you pick out a few key words from that last paragraph that would explain why the Uto ni Yalo has become "famous" for hosting school groups? Did you choose "passionate", "smile", "song", "dance"? All contributed to lasting memories as in each case the visiting group responded with an item of their own. So perhaps you might add "sharing" to that list.
The time has come to realise that the "classroom" is not confined to four walls in a school compound. It is whatever natural environment you find yourself in. In subsequent articles we'll look at ways that anyone can make environmental awareness a household expression. Until then...............tabu soro Viti kei Rotuma.........we journey to Aitutaki where we will carry our message to another island nation. Look for us in Levuka and Laucala Bay in early June.