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Maui Podcast

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Keywords: Maui, Island, Invasive Species, Environment
Subject(s): Science, Podcasting
Grades 6 through 12
Planned By: Emily Wilson
Original Author: Emily Wilson, Sunderland
Despite being treasured for its beauty, the county of Maui, Hawaii is battling invasive species, ecological damage, and loss of pristine watersheds. Unlike ecosystems on the mainland where these issues are diluted by the sheer expanse of the land, living on an island brings these issues literally to everyone’s front door. Many students are aware of the troubles facing our small piece of paradise, but feel they are unable to comprehend them, or worse, they feel they have no voice in helping find solutions. This leads to a defeatist attitude in just the population we are counting on to take an active and positive role in saving the island.

The Problem:
The first quarter of freshman biology is spent discussing evolution, ecology and the interplay of organisms and the biosphere. We cover the ecology of Maui and present the science behind the land they have come to love. Usually the students are assigned a Power Point presentation on an invasive species that they present to their class. While this is a good learning tool, many of them have expressed frustration that they are not doing anything constructive with their knowledge. Presenting to their class is almost meaningless, as everyone in the class knows and understands the threats invasive species pose to Maui’s ecosystems. It is important to empower students, especially ones with great ideas, quick minds untainted by the “rules” of adult society, and who ask demanding and penetrating questions.

The Solution:
Empowerment begins with knowledge and ownership of the problem. As we discuss ecology and environmental issues in class, the students will be reminded of the issues we face here on Maui. Community planning, water usage, landfill management, and sewage dumping are all issues that should be touched upon. The altering of ocean chemistry through run-off, the loss of bottom fishing privileges as the populations of fishes are depleted, the potentially harmful effects of unrestricted travel between the islands, the effects of noise and chemical pollution on local marine mammals, and the constant threat of invasive species should also be covered. Immersing the students in the scientific process by requiring that they choose one of these issues and then form a reasonable action plan presents the ideal learning situation. Their plan would need to include a description of the issue, a way to discover facts surrounding their issue through either an interview with important community members involved in the legislation of their issue, or conducting their own scientific investigation and reporting on their findings. The teacher will be the facilitator rather than their “all knowing sage.” Other local professionals involved in many aspects of environmental policy or leaders of local environmental activist groups could be approached for interviews. An ideal size for the student groups would be teams of four to five individuals fulfilling different roles (editor, reporter, etc). When students gain confidence in their understanding of the problem, they would be able to communicate that understanding through podcasting. The final project could answer their earlier voiced needs by permitting them to “teach” the larger community about these issues that affect us all. This plan is doubly important, as it not only would get the students more interested in school work, but it would also show them how easy it is to be active and make a difference in their community. This idea doesn’t have to focus on Maui, but could be applied to other island communities or even schools on the mainland in areas that are feeling the effects of invasive species, land development, waste management and other potentially disruptive processes.