Waimea Middle School 7th and 8th Grade Science Wildfire Classroom Lessons

Pablo Beimler explains to Ms. Murphy's 8th graders the basics of the fire triangle: fuel, heat, and oxygen.

HWMO continued its month of student outreach with a series of classroom lessons about wildfire prevention and preparedness with Waimea Middle School students. On November 18th, Pablo Beimler gave presentations to each of Ms. Naui Murphy's 8th grade science classes. He covered a range of wildfire issues, but focused primarily on wind, weather, soil, and mauka-to-makai connections, topics that the students had just learned or were currently learning about. For example, Pablo explained how wildfires could actually create their own weather by drawing in oxygen. At the extreme level, this peculiar behavior of wildfire can create "fire whirls" (mistakenly known as "fire tornados"), a phenomena that occurred on Mauna Kea during a massive wildfire in 2010 (video below).

Following each presentation with Ms. Murphy's classes, students gathered into small groups to work on a poster board activity. The students were to "take over" Pablo's outreach job by creating public service announcements about various topics that were covered in the presentation. Each group focused on a particular issue, such as roadside ignitions or the El Niño drought, and brainstormed ways in which they could get the messages across to the public (including through social media using hashtags, etc.)

On November 19th, Pablo returned to the WMS to give presentations to Ms. Jade Bowman's 7th grade science classes. He turned the focus more on plants and how they could help protect a home from a wildfire. Many native dryland plants, such as pohinahina and ilima, have characteristics that are considered Firewise: drought-tolerance, stay green all year, drop very little debris, and so on. Students translated their new-found understanding for these characteristics by participating in our popular Native Plant Firewise Game Show. Each class helped us determine which live plants that we brought to the classroom would be good, not-so-good, and bad for a Firewise garden. 

Ms. Bowman's 7th grade science class watches in awe the story of the Waikoloa fire in 2005.

During the first class, a fire evacuation drill occurred, which turned out to be a great teaching moment for HWMO. Pablo stressed the importance of taking these drills seriously. A number of schools across the state have had to evacuate due to encroaching wildfires. By practicing these drills regularly, should an actual emergency occur, students and staff would be ready to "Go!" seamlessly without a moment's hesitation. Pablo also told students to share their new Ready, Set, Go! Action Guides with their families to go through their own evacuation plans and to practice them as often as possible. 

Mahalo to Ms. Bowman and Ms. Murphy for opening their classrooms to HWMO and being such great hosts!