Ocean Fair celebrates marine environment

As frigatebirds, albatrosses and red-footed boobies soared the skies, keiki and their parents learned about marine environment and participated in educational activities at the 11th Annual Ocean Fair yesterday.

Held at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, the ocean fair aimed to connect keiki with nature through hands-on activities.

“It’s not just the activity, it’s the learning, too,” said Jean Souza, Kaua‘i program coordinator for NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “It’s wonderful to see (keiki) so engaged.”

Families learned about reefs, seabirds, Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, marine mammals, the underwater geology of Kaua‘i and boating safety. Activities included creating art out of ocean debris, making gyotaku (fish) prints, face painting, knot tying and making reef hats.

One popular but smelly activity was the dissection of albatross boluses.

“The kids are learning what (albatross) are eating, such as the beaks of squid and plastics,” said Darlina Palmero of the Youth Conservation Corps. “It’s going good so far.”

Palmero, who manned the albatross bolus booth, said the activity wasn’t just dissecting the boluses, it encourages questions as to why the birds ate what they did.

“It’s about what are the local albatross eating and feeding their chicks and ultimately how healthy the ocean is,” Sheri Saari of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. “We use it as an indicator, not as an assessment tool.”

Jennifer Luck, executive director of the Kaua‘i Public Land Trust, was on hand to talk about the benefits of land conservation.

Luck was also videotaping kids talking about their favorite place on Kaua‘i and how they would feel if a house or hotel was built there.

“We will use it as a public education tool,” Luck said. “We plan to edit it and put together a video about why land conservation is important.”

One of the most popular “favorite places” was Kalihi Wai, Luck added.

“It’s about getting them to start thinking about why land conservation is important and getting them conscious about that,” Luck said.

Besides learning about the marine environment, one of the key themes of the fair was education.

“We are focusing on getting information out to educators,” Christy Taylor-Parsil, a volunteer with the whale sanctuary, said.

Each of the booth operators had ocean-related curriculum ideas for educators, Taylor-Parsil added.

Educators also received a U.S. Coral Reef Task Force DVD and a fish poster.

Souza said the day was all about learning as the kids participated in each activity.

“There’s a message in each lesson,” Souza said. “Even the reef hats, it’s more than just coloring, it’s understanding the animals.’

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