Allen Golden, left, and Andy Collins prepare to survey the reef off Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The island was on the itinerary of a cruise for educators just completed by the research ship Hi'ialakai.

Mission accomplished

Teachers return eager to share
their encounter with Hawaii’s
remote islands

While sitting on a jet boat waiting for others to finish snorkeling off the coast of Mokumanamana last week, teacher Maggie Prevenas began composing a play about caring for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, known to some as Hawaii's ancestor islands.

The seventh-grade teacher in Upcountry Maui now plans to post her "The Heart of Honu" play on a Web site. Ideally, teachers and students throughout the islands, even community groups, would stage the play.

"As (Hawaiian sailing canoe navigator) Nainoa Thompson says, it's going to be the keiki of today that will be the stewards of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands tomorrow," Prevenas said.

Each of 10 Hawaii teachers who voyaged to Nihoa, Mokumanamana and French Frigate Shoals Aug. 12 to yesterday on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Hi'ialakai handled the experience differently.

The teachers' voyage was the first time NOAA had devoted a trip entirely to educators. In this fragile environment, teachers got a glimpse of what could someday become a protected National Marine Sanctuary.

During the trip, Barbara Klemm, a teacher of teachers and a curriculum design expert, was constantly looking for the big picture -- trying to see how science from the Northwestern Isles could be integrated into marine science lessons for students in Hawaii and beyond.

"If the problem is sharks feeding on baby seals, the issue is, Should we go out and help when we see a baby seal starving?" Klemm said. These are real-life questions that wildlife managers have to answer, and "I want to put students in the role of investigator," she said.

Sabra Kauka, a Hawaiian-studies teacher on Kauai, is crafting lessons about the different ohana (families) to be found in the Northwestern Islands: the ohana of fish, of invertebrate sea creatures, of limu, even of the islands themselves, since all were "born" over the volcanic hot spot that is now giving rise to Loihi (or Kama'ehu) Seamount southeast of the Big Island.

"We share the same piko (belly button) and we're from the same family," Kauka said of all the Hawaiian islands.

"I knew it would be a wonderful trip, but I didn't know the extent of the wonder, beauty and stunning abundance here -- and the marked contrast to the main Hawaiian islands," Kauka said.

That is a sentiment teachers on the trip repeated often as they snorkeled over coral reefs bustling with sea life, and watched in amazement the number of seabirds nesting on the tiny islands.

They know they were in an area normally restricted to research scientists and a handful of fishermen. Their purpose was to learn about this water wilderness and share what they learned with others who probably will never get to come here themselves.

Andy Collins, who does education outreach for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve and was a key organizer of the teachers' trip, coined a term for the quantity and quality of life in these islands: "double-choke."

Barbara Mayer of Kamehameha Schools hugged Sabra Kauka, who teaches on Kauai, yesterday after they finished an educators' cruise to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Most of the teachers selected for the trip out of 80-plus applicants already had been teaching lessons about the richness of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. "But I felt like there were some pukas (holes). Sometimes I felt lame teaching it," Prevenas said.

Now, having seen, felt, tasted and smelled the place herself, "I feel now like, 'Bring it on, baby.'"

"I knew we would see evidence of species numbers and variety," said Cobey Doi, a fourth-grade teacher at the Big Island's Hawaii Preparatory Academy, "but seeing is believing."

One thing Doi did not really want to believe was the evidence -- even hundreds of miles away from cities and towns -- of human trash. Doi spotted discarded water bottles, cans and PVC pipe on the ocean floor. "Even without people living here, we have a real impact on the environment," she said.

Improvising and sharing were the watchwords of the cruise. And the teachers' gusto for learning from scientists and resource people on the trip seemed bottomless.

Some nights in the ship's "dry lab," where a dozen laptop computers were set up, the typing of lesson plans, sorting of digital photos and excited exchange of ideas went on until midnight -- even with a 7:30 a.m. boat ride to a snorkeling spot set for the next day.

"This synergy among teachers is the best I've ever seen," said Barbara Mayer, Kamehameha Schools earth science teacher for middle school.

Mayer's students started class Wednesday without her, sort of. Her teaching substitute gave Mayer's students exercises about naming the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and had students go on a Web-based scavenger hunt. Within a day of being aboard the Hi'ialakai, Mayer had written a lesson plan asking students to ponder the problem of invasive grasshoppers eating up the plants of Nihoa Island, which she had just learned about, and posted it on the Internet for her class.

Alan Nakagawa, a diver and photographer, produced a slide show featuring everyone's photos with soundtrack by the last day of the voyage. He hopes to get students using mobile education labs on the Big Island and Maui to create their own videos of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands using video shot by educators and by NOAA.

One thing Mililani High science teacher Sandy Webb liked about daily interaction with scientists on the trip was seeing that real science is not all black and white, as it can be in textbooks. "I saw the problems researchers encountered" when their hyphotheses proved to be wrong, Webb said. Undaunted, the researchers recast their questions to fit reality and went on gathering data.

"I want my kids to be collecting data and solving problems that are authentic," Webb said. "And if we find out there's a lot of introduced limu at Pupukea (Marine Life Conservation District on Oahu), what are we going to do about it?"

"This voyage has helped me think big," Webb said, "and to realize that I don't have to do it alone. Other people on this voyage have given me great ideas -- not just from the head, but also from the heart."



Teachers at sea

David Boynton, 59, Kauai, environmental resource teacher at Kokee Discovery Center. The center offers three- and four-hour outdoor education experiences to Kauai schoolchildren.

Cobey Doi, 45, Hawaii, fourth-grade teacher at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Kamuela, where she seeks to integrate Hawaiian studies with other subjects, including natural sciences.

Allen Golden, 31, Oahu, seventh-grade social studies teacher, Jarrett Middle School in Palolo. Helped create an interdisciplinary teaching unit on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for statewide use.

Sabra Kauka, 60, Kauai, Hawaiian-studies teacher at Island School and Hawaiian-studies cultural resource person for Kauai schools. Chairwoman of the Napali Coast Ohana, caretakers of Nu'alolo Kai Hikinaakala, the Wailua heiau complex.

Barbara Klemm, 62, Oahu, University of Hawaii at Manoa education professor. Wrote the widely used marine science textbook "Fluid Earth, Living Ocean" and a founding member of the National Marine Educators Association. Does research on use of the Internet for virtual field trips, science instruction and teacher education.

Barbara Mayer, 60, Oahu, Kamehameha Schools eighth-grade Earth science teacher, covering geology, astronomy, meteorology and oceanography. Volunteers at national parks and wildlife refuges in the summertime.

Alan Nakagawa, 48, Hawaii, Honokaa High and Intermediate School director of Mobile Education Partners, a project using technology to learn about science and math. Also consults on science education for other school districts.

Margaret Prevenas, 48, Maui, seventh-grade science teacher at Kalama Intermediate in Makawao. Used past travel to Antarctica, Fiji, New Zealand, Mexico and Taiwan as an opportunity to teach students about different ecosystems.

Haunani Seward, 54, Kauai, director of Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha Learning Center, a public charter school serving Kekaha and Niihau. Particularly interested in the ocean as a source of food.

Sandy Webb, 44, Oahu, science teacher and science learning coordinator for Mililani High School. Supports the student environmental club and encourages students to gather data for active scientific projects.

Diana Leone, Star-Bulletin

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