Ecosys­tems In Good Hands

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - NEWS -

The Leleka­manu Pro­gram, an ed­u­ca­tional out­reach of Pa­pa­hana Kuaola, re­ceived an out­pour­ing of sup­port from 110 East Oahu third­graders this past year.

The Aina Haina Ele­men­tary stu­dents, four teach­ers and one Hawai­ian stud­ies teacher from the school vis­ited two na­tive Hawai­ian ecosys­tems to record and col­lect data for the pro­gram’s Malama i na Ka­hawai project.

“The stu­dents had to learn about the Hawai­ian streams — from their for­ma­tion and con­nec­tion to our wa­ter cy­cle, to the na­tive, in­tro­duced and in­va­sive plants and an­i­mals,” said lead teacher Shawn Naka­mura, not­ing that they drew con­nec­tions be­tween the mauka and makai ahupua‘a sys­tems and their im­por­tance to early Hawai­ians.

Led by Jes­sica Tafao, they vis­ited Heeia’s stream and fish­pond in Wind­ward Oahu. They tested Heeia Stream wa­ters for flow rate, tur­bid­ity, salin­ity, tem­per­a­ture and depth, and re­turned later to fo­cus on the plant and an­i­mal life. At the an­cient He‘eia Fish­pond, com­plete with walls and gate, Naka­mura said it “showed them the stream as a con­nec­tion or con­nec­tor be­tween the moun­tain and the ocean.”

Af­ter each trip, they made no­ta­tions in a jour­nal pro­vided by Pa­pa­hana Kuaola and on the Web site leleka­manu.com. To thank the young re­searchers, the non­profit agency pre­sented to them copies of a book of their writ­ings and art­work at a May assem­bly at the school.

“ The stu­dents were so amazed to see their re­sponses pub­lished in the book,” Naka­mura said. “I think it gave them con­fir­ma­tion about the value of their re­sponses, that their re­sponses counted and some­one thought it was good enough to pub­lish.”

Sup­ported by a B-WET Hawaii grant from NOAA, Malama i na Ka­hawai’s goal is to teach stu­dents and teach­ers to un­der­stand, re­spect and care for unique na­tive Hawaii ecosys­tems specif­i­cally re­lated to streams and to be re­spon­si­ble stew­ards.

As they see changes peo­ple make to the land and ocean, Naka­mura said the chil­dren have pro­found ob­ser­va­tions, such as “Chan­nel­iza­tion is good for you and me, but not for the plants and an­i­mals.”

“These days, chil­dren don’t get to ex­plore and play in streams very of­ten,” she added. “There is so much to learn about this Hawai­ian ecosys­tem. Any­time you can take the class­room out into the real word, that is fun!”

Aina Haina third-graders re­move a kick net from Haiku Stream so they can col­lect tiny stream an­i­mals and ob­serve them. In the year­long stew­ard­ship project, they learned how to care for unique Hawaii ecosys­tems. Photo from Jes­sica Tafao.

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