Agriculture, environment take on new meaning

WAILUA n “They’re mostly males in there,” a group of excited King Kaumuali‘i School fifth-graders said as they inspected a fruit fly trap.

“Males don’t have stingers, the females have little stingers,” the students added while carefully tumbling the trap to see the variety of flies captured in the trap.

“Don’t spill the trap, or you’re going to have to pick up all those flies,” joked host Trenton Yasui of the Fruit Fly Suppression program.

The students were part of about 500 students from Kaua‘i schools who converged at the University of Hawai‘i Kaua‘i Agricultural Research Center in Wailua for the 10th Annual Agricultural & Environmental Awareness Day Thursday.

“It’s good of Terry Sekioka to let us use this place,” Greg Fujikawa of the Department of Water said. “And, it’s good that the Department of Education allows the students this opportunity to learn in this kind of environment.”

Fujikawa has been attending the program for at least the past seven years, and during that time has been involved in both exhibitor and presentor status. For this event, Fujikawa was in charge of an exhibit.

“Our major objectives are to create a greater awareness and understanding of agriculture and the environment among students, teachers, and the public,” Sekioka, the County Administrator for the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, said. “It also introduces students to career opportunities in agriculture and environmental studies.”

Sekioka noted that this event would not be possible without the help of the volunteers, namely the faculty and staff at the Wailua research facility, the Kapa‘a High School J.R.O.T.C., the Kaua‘i High School Work Readiness Program, and above all, the financial support from the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau.

Students in fifth grades from schools from Hanalei to Kekaha descended on the Wailua facility where they were greeted with a questionnaire that they would seek out answers to during their tour that included about two dozen exhibitors and six interactive stations.

Everyone went through the exhibits where presenters helped the students find answers to the questions on their questionnaires, and in addition to the answers, many offered up additional perks such as pens, rulers, and other giveaways.

Attendees to the interactive stations were more selective as teachers needed to inform the event organizers ahead of time if they planned on having their class attend any of the presentations.

“Do you know why I pick anthuriums?” George Mukai of the Kaua‘i Anthurium Association asked Enoka Baclayon, a fifth grader at Kapa‘a Elementary School.

“People give money for the flowers, and I can use the money to go bowling,” Mukai told the perplexed youngster.

Valerie Kaneshiro of the Hawai‘i Pork Association was a bit more creative as she monitored a display featuring interactive buttons that flashed right or wrong answers.

“Derek Nishimura was tied up with some serious work today, so I just came out to help,” Jack Gushiken of Guava Kai said. Guava Kai was one of the original vendors for the event, and for Thursday’s display had a variety of guava products they have developed on their Kilauea farms, and to help quench the morning thirst n a nice, cold cup of fresh guava juice.

“It’s just right,” a Kapa‘a Elementary School teacher who described herself as “one lost teacher” said. “It’s not raining, and the sun isn’t beating down. This is just right.”

Beryl Blaich of the Malama Mahaulepu group used a Nemo-like puppet to reinforce her presentation centering on the impact of humans on marine and shoreline ecosystems.

Based on the answers students were giving Blaich, another monitor at the exhibit was surprised at the amount of knowledge the students had about a lot of things, and noted that it takes events such as this to stimulate the learning process.

“We should be having more of these in the community,” she said, her mind already anticipating a display for the upcoming Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair.

More contemporary areas such as biotechnology and biodiesel drew a lot of interest from both students and teachers while the more interactive booths such as the plant propagation and taro cultivation tents had students getting their hands immersed in the learning process.

“Would you like some freshly made poi?” a passing teacher asked as their group transferred from the taro cultivation tent to the biodiesel tent where Adam Asquith waited anxiously.

The event was coordinated by Sekioka, Sue Keller of the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, and numerous community volunteers.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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