September 2019—In our programs, a core educational lesson revolves around various cycles in nature – water cycle, nutrient cycle or plant life cycle. In many ways, I have also come full circle.
I started my environmental career in college at Washington State University conducting K-12 environmental education. I taught many of the same themes that are taught at Hawai‘i Nature Center today. During the course of two decades, I’ve focused my life’s work on watershed restoration, including salmon habitats on Oregon’s northern coast and spent 10 years dedicated to ocean health in Windward O‘ahu.
This journey has given me many memorable moments. Here’s one of my favorites. While walking back to the bus with an early elementary class after planting trees as part of a wetland restoration project, a young girl, not much taller than the newly planted seedlings, stopped. She turned around and with conviction returned to her tree.
Intrigued, I followed her. She took off the sticky name tag from her raincoat, knelt down and wrapped it around the immature trunk of the pine tree. When I asked what she was doing, she said, “I’m putting my name on this tree so that I can come back in the future when it’s all grown up and I’ll know which one is mine!”
This young lady, after in-classroom education and reinforced field experience, grasped the lessons taught to her – protection of our natural resource will only happen through education, ownership and action.
The Hawai‘i Nature Center exist to connect children and families to nature to educate, empower and inspire our keiki to action.
These days I spend less time in mother nature’s class room with students than I once did, but I know these same impactful moments are happening every day with students across O‘ahu and Maui. I know too, our educators are witnessing the importance of HNC’s work to educate and create the next generation of environmental stewards for Hawai‘i.
I’m excited to be associated with an entity that has touched over 1-million keiki and their families since 1981 and to expand our impact. It took many years, but I have now completed my own cycle in nature–a full, 20-year career cycle.
I look forward to connecting with as many of you as possible in the coming months at our Nature Adventure Camps, School Programs, volunteer events and hikes. If you have questions or would like to talk story, contact me at Todd@HawaiiNatureCenter.org.
Todd Cullison | Hawai`i Nature Center Executive Director