New online lecture series about the Pacific, for the Pacific

The Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific at the University of Auckland is wanting to engage Pacific high school students during the national lockdown with an online series of lecture videos about Oceania.

Damon Salesa, and a number of students from the university, had been working on a Pacific studies textbook for high school students for the past 18 months because there is currently not one available in New Zealand.

However, that had been put on hold due to Covid-19 and led to Mr Salesa using the lockdown as an opportunity to reach Pacific high school students with online content that is 900 seconds or 15 minutes long called 'Pacific Level Up'.

"The textbook is close to the finish line. We were planning to release it in the next few months, but not likely with the current lockdown restrictions."

"Now that I have time on my hands, I wanted to be able to still give people the opportunity to learn about the Pacific from their homes, hence the videos."

Mr Salesa said the main goal with this initiative was to get people learning and interested in the Pacific.

"I never got the opportunity to study the Pacific in high school and I really thought it wouldn't be the case anymore, but actually in many schools, especially schools where most of the students are Pacific students, often they study very little or nothing at all about the Pacific."

"It's crucial for me as a Pacific parent to teach my daughters about our rich history and I want every other young Pacific student to get that chance," he said.

"I want to help them understand that they have these powerful stories and that these stories and places belong to them and when you make the effort to connect yourselves to these stories, you begin to understand more about the world."

Term two for school students in New Zealand began on Wednesday, which was immaculate timing for Mr Salesa's online series to launch around that period.

"Some teachers have been in touch with me asking to use elements of my online videos for their class because part of it is that teaching about the Pacific is undiscovered territory."

"When myself and the university students were working on the textbook, we were aiming to make the content to be discrete modules that can fit into achievement standards, so if you are doing an achievement standard on food, you might want to get your students to learn about sustainable agriculture in the Pacific."

Mr Salesa said depending on how long the lockdown continued, would determine how many videos would be released.

There were currently 14 episodes planned to be released online, with some featuring colleagues of Mr Salesa. For example episode four had associate professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Keith Camacho.

Topics covered in the 'Pacific Level Up' series were Pacific genealogies, the importance of studying the Pacific and defining the Pacific.