April 2023 – By Education Programs Manager Emma Shelly: Every Day can be Earth Day.
Some of the students that come to us at Hawai‘i Nature Center tell me that they’ve never been on a hike before. Others share that they’ve never explored a stream. Even a few of the more uncertain souls, who, up until now, haven’t been sure that they’re into the mud and bugs, abandon caution and join their classmates in the water. For many stepping off that school bus into Makiki valley feels like stepping into a new world.
This is the power of place that makes the Hawai‘i Nature Center so special. Positioned as we are right at the start of the Makiki Valley Trail, we have an incredible opportunity to be the gateway connecting students to nature. From towering Cook pine trees to native ‘ulu and from winding trails through deep forest to flowers growing in a sunny meadow, there is always more to see, more to do, more to explore.
Exploration leads to questions:
“What is making that noise?” “What is that bird doing?” “What is THAT and can I hold it?”
Questions lead to learning, which leads to science, in a way that is so natural it’s seamless. Sometimes I’m teaching and I don’t even realize it. The kids drink it up as they drink up their exploration. By the end of it, they’ve become so comfortable in this place that many of them want to return to it (after lunch, of course). The verdant forest and towering valley have ceased to be new and strange. A world of possibilities awaits.
We are planting small seeds every day. Keiki who come through our programs leave with an enjoyment of the outdoors that they might not have had before. From that enjoyment comes familiarity. From the two, comes love. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, expressed it best when we wrote, “We cannot protect something we do not love. We cannot love what we do not know. And we cannot know what we do not see, hear or sense.”
This Earth Day we celebrate in the best way we know how–by welcoming a kindergarten class to our campus for their field trip. For many of these younger students, it really will be their first time on a hike or in the forest. We’re so lucky that we get to spend Earth Day extending the introductions to the wide, wonderful world. In their smiles as they explore the stream, in their dirty hands as they make ‘soil cookies’ for the trees, in their small footprints as they hike through the ‘bamboo forest, ‘ we get to see the next generation of stewards take the first step of their journey. And that is always an amazing sight.