HANALEI — Many times, the classroom is outside for the kids in Christina Zimmerman’s Homeschool Now program.
But recently, the keiki in the hands-on, nature-based education program decided to branch out from their little homestead on Kauai’s North Shore to Moloaa Bay on the East Side, a place special to them that needed a little bit of help.
Partnering with oversight from Kauai’s Surfrider chapter, the first graders, families and teachers picked up and removed 585 pounds of marine debris from Moloaa Bay, which went to the Surfrider’s marine debris procesing station in Kapaa.
“(We found) oyster spacers, plastic and trash,” said first-grader Zenith Rollins. “We also found two big pieces of net and buoys.”
Classmate Narissa Dinenberg said she found pieces of discarded toothbrushes. Jackson Mahoney and Cash White added they found an oil changer, plastic water bottles and a big rope.
“It was so heavy, we needed like all the class to help,” White said.
The first graders said most of what they picked up was plastic.
“I really think we should not use plastic anymore,” Rollins said.
Before they dug in along the sand at Moloaa, the kids learned about marine debris and its impact on the environment from Surfrider’s Barbara Wiedner. She and Carl Berg often go into classrooms to give lessons on topics like marine debris and water quality.
Initially, though, all of it sparked with the kids, who came up with the idea while reading one Thursday during a nature day outside.
“They decided the difference they wanted to make here in the world was cleaning the beaches on Kauai,” said Emily Blackburn, first-grade teacher.
The kids chose Moloaa Bay because they’d visited it on previous nature days and noticed trash and marine debris buildup.
So, Homeschool Now partnered with the Kauai chapter of Surfrider, which in addition to educational events, hosts weekly net and marine debris cleanups for the community.
“The students are well prepared for their field work after they have received adequate time in the classroom with Aunty Barbara,” Zimmerman said.
Blackburn said having classroom time for lessons about marine debris before the cleanup helped the kids understand more about how the debris impacts the ocean and life for humans.
Delfina Carlson said she learned when plastic goes into the ocean, “creatures like dolphins and turtles get killed and then even birds too.”
Ka‘ano‘i Chandler said he found trash, buoys and metal on the beach.
“The beach was really, really dirty and I wanted to help it, so I just stared helping to clean it up and then I started feeling good,” Chandler said.
Dinenberg said she learned sometimes trash is in the ocean for long enough that “little creatures have to live on it.”
“It’s important, because if we don’t clean up the ocean, it will all be bad and all our sea animals will get wrapped up and die by eating too much plastic,” Dinenberg said. “We should clean up the plastic and not use plastic anymore. We eat some of the animals, so it affects us, too.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.