The workshop was led by Morgan Visalli, Marine Scientist at the Benioff Ocean Initiative; Su Adams from U Can Too; Raymond Centeno, Senior Software Engineer at Salesforce; and Nadine Jacang, STEM Academy Coordinator at Kamehameha Schools.
Students also heard from several speakers during the workshop. Visalli provided marine science information, helping students understand how climate change affects the ocean and coral reef ecosystems. The students learned how measuring water temperature can help predict the impact of global warming on areas such as Papahānaumokuākea, the site of a Marine National Monument.
“As I went around the classroom to help students one-on-one, it was terrific to watch their coding and engineering skills improve, even over two short days,” said Visalli. “I was quite impressed by their initiative and creativity as we worked together to problem-solve when they hit a roadblock in their code or construction. By the end of the workshop, students were already identifying themselves as coders and/or engineers.”
Dr. Richard Pyle, a zoologist from the Bishop Museum and scientist on the upcoming research expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, told the students about his experiences studying the deep waters of the Hawaiian Islands using high-tech dive gear. He showed images of newly identified fish from Papahānaumokuākea, and explained how over 50 percent of fish species found in the Monument waters are endemic to that area.
Hawaiian cultural expert Sol Kaho'ohalahala shared the Kumulipo, an 18th-century creation story told in the Hawaiian language, and the longest recorded traditional Hawaiian chant. He also related the history of how many life forms originally evolved from Papahānaumokuākea, beginning with the coral polyp, and encouraged the students to learn about and honor their ancestral connection with this sacred place and the living things found there.
Alana Eagle and Nathan Eagle, journalists for the Honolulu Civil Beat, shared a collection of photos and videos from their two-week voyage to Papahānaumokuākea. The students learned about the planning and preparation that goes into visiting a place with such restricted access—including deep freezing all of their clothes before visiting the quarantined islands. The students also got to see a bag full of plastic pieces that were found in the stomach of one albatross on Midway Island, highlighting the plastic pollution crisis that the islands are facing.
"Our kids are going to be stuck living in the climate-altered world we've created,” said Douglas McCauley, Director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative and Professor of Biology at UC Santa Barbara. “We owe it to them to do all we can to better that future. One of those obligations is giving them the very best tools and training to fight back against these problems."