Posted on: February 14, 2011

225 Elementary School Students To Attend Keiki E.C.O. Day on Friday

On Fri., Feb. 18, more than 225 Maui elementary school students will be attending the 2nd annual Keiki E.C.O. Day, a free outdoor environmental education event hosted by Pacific Whale Foundation at Kalama Park in Kihei. The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Students will be attending from Wailuku Elementary, Montessori Hale o Keiki, and Kamali‘i Elementary School, and will be transported there by free bus transportation provided through donations by  Kokua Hawai'i Foundation and Pacific Whale Foundation's “No Child Left Indoors” scholarship fund.
Their teachers have selected from the twelve exploratory stations in advance, to create a customized program to suit their classes’ interests and meet some of the state curriculum standards for their grade level. The stations will be operated by Keiki E.C.O. Day partners, including  Maui Invasive Species Committee, East Maui Watershed, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Community Workday, Kïhei Charter School, Haleakalä National Park and Hawai‘i Nature Center, as well as artist Peggy Oki, organic farmer Vincent Mina and  Pacific Whale Foundation's research, education and conservation staff. The exploratory stations offer opportunities to worm composting bins for their classrooms, learn how to measure water salinity using refractometers, take part in a GPS treasure hunt, learn how to grow their own nutritious snacks and explore solutions to many of Maui’s environmental challenges
The children will also be treated to a free concert by the Banana Slug String Band, an eco-oriented children’s musical group that uses costumes and catchy lyrics to inspire youngsters to take part in protecting the planet. This award-winning band hails from Santa Cruz, California, and has recently launched its new CD, "Only One Ocean." They will perform songs that range from folk to rap, bluegrass to rock, and feature  vocals, guitars, mandolin, bass, harmonica, banjo and percussion including "Kingdom of The Crab," "Ocean Rap" and "Water Cycle Boogie." 
“The goal of Keiki E.C.O. Day is to highlight the value and importance of outdoor environmental education for youth,” said Merrill Kaufman, Education Director at Pacific Whale Foundation. “We want to  bring  students and  teachers together with environmental educators, naturalists and their peers to  actively participate in nature-based learning and to be inspired to  participate in environmental stewardship on Maui.
At the Curtain of Whales, children will tour through a rainbow colored gallery of 36,000 origami whales hanging on strings. The whales were folded by children and adults from around the world, and gathered and strung by artist Peggy Oki, to provide a compelling visual image of the number of whales that have been killed by whaling, despite the worldwide ban on whaling by the InternationalWhaling Commission. The children will learn to fold their own origami whales for the exhibit, to help represent the nearly 2,000 whales that are expected to be killed by whalers this year.
At the “Grow Your Own Snack” station, organic farmer Vincent Mina of Maui Aloha Aina will demonstrate how easy it is to grow sunflower seed sprouts, wheat grass and other kitchen counter crops, and will give away free samples.
Children will learn to use GPS devices and will go on a scavenger hunt, using coordinates provided to them, during a workshop staffed by students of the Kihei Charter School. 
 Kaufman points out that for children today, outdoor play is often the  exception rather than the rule. Kids spend half as much time outside today as did children a generation ago, and are increasingly disconnected from nature. Many youngsters devote more than 40 hours a week to video games, TV or the Internet.
 “Environmental educators point out that the amount of time a child spends  outdoors before age 11 plays a large role in determining if the child will grow up to care about the environment,” says Kaufman. “But as schools strive to meet the standards for math and reading imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are pressured to reduce time spent on outdoor education.”
"Environmental education ensures that children experience nature and learn to care about it," says Erica Gorman, Youth Education Director at Pacific Whale Foundation, who helped to organize the conference.  “We view it as critically important now, more than ever, for children to become involved in programs that allow them to experience the natural world.”
 “After all, how do we expect a child to grow into an adult who cares about saving the coral reefs, whales, birds or forests, if they’ve never spent time around them, and don’t have the appreciation for how special and wondrous they are,” she says.
Visiting schoolchildren are invited to participate in Keiki ECO-Day with their families. Pre-registration is required. For information, contact Pacific Whale Foundation's Education Director, Merrill Kaufman,  at or call (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.