Members of the Focus Maui Nui Youth Alliance kicked off the 2011 program year by carrying out a key strategy in protecting the island’s natural environment. With the help of adult environmental experts and volunteers, the high school students combed Kamaole III Beach Park in Kihei while engaging in lessons about the importance of sea birds to Maui’s natural habitat and assisting in catching and banding shearwater chicks in burrows by the beach. The event held on October 22 also covered activities on the scientific significance of beach dunes and what kind of community action is being taken to protect and preserve the island’s sandy shores.
“The kids were great,” coastal geologist Tara Miller Owens said. “I think they learned a lot. Hopefully they’re going home and teaching their families.” Jay Penniman, manager of the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project, said he felt hopeful after receiving help from the students with catching and banding the young sea birds. “We need to be teaching our young people about the ʻāina (land) and how to take care of all the species that live here.” Also on hand were community activists Bob and Lis Richardson who spoke about creating the volunteer organization The Dune Restoration Project.
For Owens, it was key that the youth participating in the event understand the beach processes and the importance of healthy dunes. She said discussions about dunes brought awareness to those who can do something about it in the future. “When you’ve grown up on this island, sometimes you think things are obvious but that’s not necessarily so. I’m glad we were able to raise awareness so they can take action,” she said. Penniman shared the same sentiments, saying he hopes the students will contemplate studying the importance of preserving natural resources, perhaps even undertaking a college degree program to learn more. “The more we understand how our environment works, the better we can be about protecting and preserving,” he said.