Students learn about Westside environment

MAJORS BAY — Gavin Pahulehua watched through a telesccope as a nene walked with its mate in the Mana Bird Sanctuary Wetland Friday morning.

“It’s the first time that I’ve been out here,” the Kula Aupuni Niihau A Kahelelani Aloha Public Charter School student said. “I like watching the nene.”

Pahulehua was one of about 50 students from KANAKA School and St. Theresa School who attended the annual Earth Day event at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands.

“It’s important to take care of our environment. Without life, we wouldn’t be here,” said Megan Kelley, another student at KANAKA.

The students from KANAKA spent the first half of the morning in the wetlands, learning from state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife staff members, and from PMRF’s field biologist, Rachel Herring.

Meanwhile, students from St. Theresa walked along Majors Bay and removed debris from the beach.

“We found bottle caps and a hat and plastic and rope,” said Danielle Souza, a St. Theresa student, as she sorted the debris. “We even found toothbrushes.”

Mary Alice Clarke, also a student at St. Theresa, said she thought some of it was left by people who go camping and don’t clean up their trash.

And while that can be the case on Kauai’s beaches, Surfrider Kauai president Barbara Weidner said most of what they found was debris that floated in from elsewhere.

“I’d say about 95 percent of this washed in,” she said. “The guys that come to this beach really take care of it and they don’t leave trash very often.”

After a morning that included planting native seeds in wetlands, the kids gathered at the beach for snacks and activities.

“Thanks for planting and thanks for cleaning the beach,” said Capt. Vincent Johnson, PMRF commander. “No matter what your job, you can always take care of your environment.”

Students rotated through stations where they learned about things like emergency preparedness, health effects of smoking, and movements of tsunamis. They also learned how to play the traditional Hawaiian game of konane.

A fire truck and an ambulance were also on site for students to explore, along with two Jet Skis that are remotely controlled and used for target exercises at the base.

“We wanted to showcase what the Navy does for the environment, but there’s more to it,” said Roland Sagum, community planning liaison officer at PMRF.

“We’re telling the kids to keep getting education, keep learning and maybe they can be one of these guys that are out here volunteering someday.”

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