Kauai's wildfire uptick in recent months, partially due to drought conditions and a string of arson cases, is cause for concern for the Garden Island. We reached out to various schools across the island to offer our complimentary wildfire student outreach program.
The first week of September became an outreach tour of Kauai's schools for HWMO Education & Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler. On September 1st and 2nd, Pablo traveled to Waimea Canyon Middle School and held wildfire lessons in the science classroom of Ms. Yamagata for a total of seven classes. On the following day, September 3rd, Pablo held lessons in the life sciences classroom of Mr. Sasso at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Lihue, another great fit for introducing students to a life science they're not normally exposed to: fire ecology. September 4th was a double-header for HWMO: Pablo first held a presentation for over a hundred K-5th graders at Island School in Lihue and then hopped on over to Chiefess for one last classroom lesson, this time with Ms. Thompson's Hawaiiana class.
For each classroom lesson, Pablo gave an interactive presentation about the basics of fire ecology, Hawaii's unique wildfire issues, how students can help reduce ignitions and protect their homes from wildfire using Firewise landscaping. To keep the students on their toes, Pablo had the students stand up and demonstrate "ladder fuels". Students first touched their toes to be a grass fire, their knees to be a brush fire, and eventually a wild crown fire with their arms waving frantically. For the next round, Pablo told the students that the brush had been removed and the lower branches of the trees eliminated (removal of "ladder fuels"). Students no longer could get from the grass pose to the crown pose. The ladder fuel treatment was a success.
To wrap up each lesson, Pablo had several volunteers participate in the Firewise Plant Game Show. One student would select and carry around a special plant to each student and allow them to "smell, touch, and even cuddle" the plant to get to know it better. Then, three landscaping judges would examine the plants and decide whether the plant should go in a Firewise garden or not. Before they could decide, they had to see what the audience thought by gauging the thumbs in the crowd. After coming up with a consensus decision, the students would show cards with "emoji" faces to determine the fate of the plant.
It was a treat to be able to talk to so many students during a short period of time and we are looking forward to additional opportunities throughout the State. Contact us if you'd like for us to come visit your school!
Mahalo nui loa to all of the teachers, administrators, and students who helped make this outreach tour a success!
Banner photo: Students stand tall like koa trees, which make for good Firewise plants.