MANA — As the saying goes, the best way to learn about birds is to dress like them.
Well, OK, that might not be a saying at all, but eighth-grade student Andrew Gallagher got a kick out of suiting up as an albatross to help his fellow Waimea Canyon Middle School students learn about the bird.
“It’s really a privilege to come on the base,” Gallagher said, who spent part of the day flocked with feathers and a beak on an Earth Day field trip to the Pacific Missile Range Facility. “Our entire seventh- and eighth-grade class got to come here to learn about the environment and how to protect it.”
Around 250 students from Waimea Canyon Middle School and Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha, a Hawaiian language charter school, joined PMRF in multiple Earth Day activities around the base Wednesday. They cleaned up Barking Sands and learned about endangered species on Kauai, how to protect them and about weather and beach erosion.
Students also visited the Kawaiele Waterbird Sanctuary, where they learned about the island’s endemic waterbirds, which are the Hawaiian stilt, moorhen, coot and the Hawaiian duck.
Waimea student Maegan Soares couldn’t help but enjoy herself as she sat down and surveyed the sanctuary with binoculars.
“It’s fun, it’s cool to learn about how the birds live and how they’re helping birds to be safe,” she said. “It’s beautiful. I like the water and the little islands.”
Another helpful lesson by PMRF environmental coordinator John Nelson and environmental biologist Tom Savre was about the dangers of plastics for Hawaii’s Wedgetail Shearwater and other birds
Jean Souza, National Oceanic Atmospherics Administration Kauai Programs coordinator and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary volunteer coordinator, said they have connections with experts in their fields.
“So, we were able to gather together all of these agencies and organizations to provide education to the students,” she said.
Souza said PMRF has taken on many resource protection and conservation efforts over the years for seabirds and marine mammals.
“We wanted the kids to be here, we wanted, especially the Westside kids, to know about the base and know about these kinds of activities that promote conservation and awareness, environmental awareness and responsibilities,” said Souza, who organized the event.
PMRF’s Earth Day event began in 2005 as a beach cleanup with one or two classes of students. Last year, Souza and a colleague were invited to do education for the students who were doing the beach cleanup. They came up with the idea to do it again and suggested a way to involve more students.
Valuable lessons were learned on the importance of protecting the environment.
“If you malama the aina, it will malama you,” Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha eighth-grader, Gheymee Perreira said.