Project Wet offers students water-wise ways

PUA LOKE — More than 550 fifth-grade students were part of the largest nationwide day of water education in the world yesterday.

Faith Shiramizu, the community outreach officer at the Department of Water, said the students spent the day at the Pua Loke arboretum going through 10 different informative and educational stations geared to water education for fifth-graders from both public and private schools.

“Make A Splash” is part of the “Project Wet” program, or Water Education for Teachers, Shiramizu said. “Project Wet is an international program and ‘Make a Splash’ is one of the Project Wet programs.”

Water festivals like the one hosted by the county’s Department of Water consist of multiple structured learning stations where students actively engage in hands-on water activities and investigations.

Some of the topics include the hydrologic cycle, ground water, spring water, water quality, wetlands, water management, water conservation, soils, and the properties of water.

Shiramizu said this year, they were fortunate to get Tom Cummings of the Bishop Museum who used the lo‘i and ahupua‘a to show and engage students in the water cycle.

“Ai is to eat,” Cummings told one of his groups. “Add ‘w’ to ‘ai’ and you get ‘wai,’ or water. Add another ‘wai’ and you get ‘waiwai,’ or wealth as in ‘kanaka waiwai.’”

Taking off from this point, Cummings set up a waterfall and an ocean and had no lack of volunteers to establish a river to connect the two.

Using families as examples, he developed lo‘i to grow taro and again, had no lack of volunteers to create the irrigation system connecting the lo‘i.

All of this takes place under the “Sucking Sun,” one student designated as the sun, and what happens when the sun “sucks” (evaporates) the water from the system.

The principle of condensation and the play of wind to move clouds to the mountains where the moisture is released and returns to the system (precipitation) had students grasping the concepts readily.

“What is really exciting is that Col. Jerald Knudsen has about 70 Junior ROTC cadets from Kapa‘a High School helping,” Shiramizu said. “They’ve helped before, but this year, the Colonel wanted the students to work with the presenters, and in many of the stations, the Junior ROTC cadets were the presenters.”

Knudsen said this was part of the cadets’ service learning where they got involved in more than just setting up and taking down tents as well as escorting and guiding student groups to the different stations.

Shiramizu, who has been involved with three of the five “Make A Splash” events which have been hosted by the Department of Water, is even more excited about expanding this program.

“I really want to start workshops for trainers,” she said. “They get to learn how to present some of the activities that are at ‘Make A Splash,’ and if they are teachers, if they complete the workshop program, they get a book with about 90 projects they can take back to the classroom.”

According to the Project Wet Web site, more than 50,000 students take part in water education festivals in 90 locations throughout 50 states on the fourth Friday in September for “Make A Splash.”

One of the core beliefs of Project Wet is that wise water management is crucial for providing tomorrow’s children with social and economic stability in a healthy environment.

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

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