HAWAI’I — Close to 250 fourth grade students were special guests at Puʻuwaʻawaʻa Forest Reserve on Hawaiʻi Island for an exciting biocultural blitz. Scientists and native Hawaiians introduced the students to the sacred area. They taught them how to identify plants, bugs, birds, invasive species and rocks using both historic cultural practices as well as scientific instruments, all the while sharing with them the history of the forest. Students also learned the importance of integrating knowledge systems – Western and Native Hawaiian – in the pursuit of conservation and natural resource management.
In preparation for this day long adventure, scientists and community members from the US Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, Hawaiʻi Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa visited the students’ classrooms to teach about native species, Hawaiian culture and their responsibility or kuleana to care for our island home. Students learned a traditional chant or mele asking permission to enter the forest and expressing gratitude for the opportunity.
Prior to visiting the forest reserve, many students referred to Puʻuwaʻawaʻa as “Cupcake Mountain” because of the prominent geologic feature that rises above the lava flow. During the biocultural blitz students learned the real and multi-layered meaning of the area’s traditional name, along with its ancient significance to early inhabitants.
One student said his favorite part was being able to find and hold real obsidian rocks left behind during the volcanic eruption. He learned about obsidian from playing Minecraft, a video game, and couldn’t wait to tell his friends that the rocks are real!
Students and teachers divided into small teams and participated in multiple 10-minute sessions where they were introduced to different scientific concepts through a cultural lens in a fun and interactive way. Stations included:
- Learning about native plants, how they dispersed from outside Hawaiʻi to the islands, and the biocultural significance of diverse species.
- Learning about endangered native birds, their native Hawaiian names, and how to care for them.
- Learning about non-native mammal species and different tools used to manage them.
- Learning about native and non-native insects and their roles in the forests of Puʻuwaʻawaʻa.
- Learning about the effects of climate change on the land and in the ocean.
- Learning about the importance of Native Hawaiian names and the information they can provide to help take care of our resources.
- Learning about the connection between the mountains and forests to the oceans and reefs.
- Learning about the unique geology of Puʻuwaʻawaʻa.
This successful Biocultural Blitz is part of the National Every Kid in a Park program to help 4th grade students build stronger connections with nature. Each participant received an official Every Kid in a Park durable voucher granting them and their family free access to federal public lands and waters. To learn more please visit the Every Kid in a Park website.