Oceans of life lessons

LIHUE — Young Sunny Ancierto likes being underwater, exploring the reefs and checking out sea life around Kauai.

And she’s one of several keiki taking to the nearshore waters during the summer school break, literally diving into learning about ecology with the Reef Guardians coral reef kids camp.

“The people are so nice,” Ancierto said. “You can make lots of friends there because everybody is so connectable and easy to communicate with.”

It’s four days of art and exploration, snorkeling and talking about sea life, led by a team of professionals and volunteers who teach kids about fish, algae, and whatever else they see in the water.

“Being in the water (is my favorite),” Ancierto said. “And looking at the sealife — fish, eels, sea stars, coral and sponges. There’s lots to see.”

While the camp is a hands-on excursion to different reefs, parent Brooke Rubalcaba pointed out that her son has also learned about preserving the island as a whole — that concept of aloha ‘aina.

“The keikis of Hawaii are the next generation, so it’s imperative that they learn their role in protecting the different species of fish and preserving our reefs,” Rubalcaba said.

Organizer Robin Mazor said that’s a huge part of the camp — teaching kids how to respectfully enjoy the reefs and learn about the underwater world that surrounds Kauai.

“It gets kids outside and learning,” Mazor said.

Ipo Carreira says that inspiration is one of the reasons that her granddaughter, Eliana Carriera, attends the camps. It’s important that Kauai is raising a generation that cares for the reefs, she said.

“It is really a blessing to have our keiki o ka aina also be ‘Reef Guardians’ keiki o ke kai, to learn about how fragile and precious our reef is and to take good care of it so it can flourish for our next generations,” Carriera said.

Reef Guardians hosts reef camps over most school breaks and charges $120 for four days. Scholarships are available.

The next camp starts June 24 and parents can register keiki at reefguardians.org

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

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