Wayfinding refers to the knowledge and practices of people who “read” the natural world to successfully travel across vast areas of land and water. Throughout history and all over the world, people have learned to recognize important signs and patterns in nature to help them find their way. Depending on where in the world you are, this knowledge may include detailed mental maps of the starry night sky, subtle changes to weather and climate, the presence or absence of fauna and flora, the nature of ocean currents, the colors of the sea and sky, or cloud formations.
While the skills and knowledge of wayfinders vary based on their environment (for example, deserts, oceans, forests), common values can be observed across wayfinding cultures: respect for the earth, the interconnectedness of nature and people, a sense of wonder, a spirit of curiosity, and a deep respect for generations both before and after us.
These values are profoundly important to Project Wayfinder and are baked into the core of our curriculum. Our activities are designed using natural and wayfinding metaphors to both honor these values and to help concretize the abstract concepts of meaningfulness and purpose.
In developing Project Wayfinder, we have been lucky to work closely with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a non-profit organization in Hawai'i committed to the transmission and practice of their ancient wayfinding traditions.