An Editorial for the Electronic Journal
of Science Education (EJSE)By David T. Crowther Ph.D. University
of Nevada, Reno.
Last November I had the awesome privilege to be one of 12 invited faculty members on an A. P. Biology teaching and research oceanographic cruise in Hawaii. John Kay from Iolani High School in Honolulu, HI. had been making plans for this trip for over a year. The idea was to take A.P. biology kids out onto and into the water, off the coast of Lanai, HI, and teach several of the A.P. biology labs in the natural setting where these organisms live and interact with one another in the environment!! His dream came true last November. I left my house in Reno with mild November temperatures, but fully knowing that winter was here since we had experienced several of the early snow flurries. With this knowledge foremost on my mind, I packed accordingly. After all, being on Lake Tahoe in November is pleasant, but when the wind kicks up and the spray from the waves washes aboard it gets cold. I boarded the plane with 2 large crates of teaching equipment and 2 large suitcases full of clothing ranging from my winter parka to swim trunks. When we touched down in Honolulu, I finally understood the harsh criticism and stupidity of bringing winter parkas, long underwear, big sweat shirts, etc. The temperature was in the high seventies and the humidity was somewhere in that very high range only known to these tropical climates or at least compared to the arid Nevada desert. I abandoned 1 whole suitcase on the spot!! I met Mr. Kay (known to all of his students and friends as "Jack") for the first time on the evening of November 25th. He had planned a luau for all of the 82 high school kids and their parents at Iolani High School. We were spoiled with succulent traditional Hawaiian dishes and even entertained by a few of his Hawaiian students as they led us through several chants and cultural activities - this was only a mere glimpse into what was to come over the next 5 days. I also met all of the students and their teachers: John Kay "Jack", Carey Inouye, Susan Nishiura, and Dena Ono from Ioloni High School with 40 of their students, Darrel James from Modesto Junior College with 12 of his students from Modesto, CA, John and Peggy Skinner from Bush School in Seattle, WA, with 16 of their students, Rose Hutchinson from La Pietra School in Honolulu, HI, with 8 of her students, several students from Saint Andrews Priory School and Waipahu High School, William and Dolly Barstow from the University of Georgia, Duane Jeffery from Brigham Young University, Kodi Jeffery from University of Texas, El Paso, and Mark Heckman, the Educational Director for the Waikiki Aquarium and Bishop Museum.
We concluded our luau with an absolutely wonderful slide presentation from Mark Heckman from the Aquarium. Mark spent a full hour showing us slides of things that we might encounter as we swam in the Hawaiian waters ranging from different kinds of coral to that all intimidating reef shark!! I was particularly interested in all of the different kinds of beautifully colored tropical fish that he introduced to us, and I was determined to find the ever illusive Humahumanukanukaapuaa or the "pig fish" as we visitors to the islands call them.
We left the Luau and gathered at the docks at about 9:00 p.m. We were introduced to the crew and the "Rapture," our boat. http://www.rapture-expeditions.com
Now - I did say that there were 82 Junior and Seniors in high school with all of their luggage waiting on this pier - you can just imagine the pile of stuff!! The luggage pile was higher than the people boarding the boat - Walkmans, Diskmans, and all sorts of other mechanical devices blared through their individual head phones and it looked as if the convenience stores had all been pillaged - especially the chips & cookie isles!!
"Rule #1 - No eating in the rooms - only in the galley - leave your food on the main deck!!" It started there as the crew read off the rules for the boat!! "Rule #2, anything left behind in the galley, walkways, classroom area or loose on deck will be confiscated and then auctioned off to the highest bidder each evening - your mothers are not on board - so clean up after yourselves (I wanted to add - you scurvy dogs!!)" Guess who left his shoes in the galley that evening and had to do 50 push-ups that evening to get them back!!
The kids got the rest of the rules and we boarded the boat. Up to 9 kids shared a room and all occupants of the room shared a common "head" (for land lubbers that is a bathroom - and not the kind you would find in the Parade of Homes!!). From the moment I stepped on board I understood that the motion of the water would have a significant impact on me and I immediately began eating Meclizine by the handful!!
The Captain informed us that in late November the channel crossing from Honolulu to Lanai would be very rough. It turned out to be worse than that! We entitled the crossing as a "Right of Passage" with nearly every person on board worshiping the "Porcelain god who resided in the Head" on multiple occasions - you see we had nearly 60 mph winds with roughly 20 foot swells for the entire 8 hours of the passage!! Needless to say that when we finally arrived on the leeward side of Lanai - the color began to return to most of the faces. People slowly came out of the fetal position that they had been resigned to for the previous experience.
Jack said, "The only way to get rid of
this feeling is to have a great Meatball sandwich lunch and then get right
into the water!! OK - I agree with him on getting into the water, but very
few people ventured into the realm of the meatball sandwich. Those of us
who did indulge in the sandwich immediately returned to worship in our
However, once a person gets into the comfortable 70 degree water the majority of the motion sickness receded only to be followed by the muscle spasms of having to prove that you could swim by treading water and swimming a distance, both into the current and back against the current, to prove that you would not drown!! This fat boy passed, but quit taking Meclizine and started pumping the Advil and Motrin!!
The labs were set up in a very nice fashion - we divided the students into three groups and had 3 simultaneous labs being taught. The students rotated through the different activities / labs including water chemistry, sand identification, tide pool explorations, transition zone species identification (A.K.A. snorkeling!!), fish printing, etc... Each morning began with a debriefing of the previous days activities and an overview of the present days activities. The entire day included 3 square meals, some free time, the labs, and then an evening discussion on a variety of topics.
It was during these evening activities
that the kids grew closer together and learned additional content from
a variety of experts in the field (plankton, whale research, and then some
lighter activities including singing, learning to dance a variety of Hawaiian
dances). Yes, I learned to hula, but the ever illusive Tahitian "belly
dance" seriously evaded me. But WOW most of those kids were talented!!
During all waking hours one of the Raptures crew followed everyone around with a digital video camera and kept a video record of the events and happenings throughout each day. Select scenes were then edited together and put to music and showed each evening to the entire boat - that turned out to be a great highlight of the trip as we were able to purchase a copy of the final video at the end of the trip. I will bring it to the next conference and we can watch it at the formal Bar Sectional at the next AETS / NARST meeting!!
The trip was fun and extremely educational. One of the highlights was spending one afternoon in Maui. Nothing like a "Cheeseburger in Paradise" after eating boat food for so long!! And, did I mention the Laupert's chocolate macadamia nut coconut ice cream!!! Too bad the ground was moving so much, I nearly dropped my cone. I understand the notion of "Sea Legs" now!!
On the last day we had a wonderful dive just off of Maui where we once again saw the variety of sea life including the large eels, green sea turtles, and the ever illusive Humahumanukunukuapuaa - yes we finally saw one!!
We returned to Honolulu and bode farewell to the wonderful friends that we had made during those days together which turned out to be a very emotional experience, but mixed with excitement as we knew we would see each other again next year as we all planned to go through this again!!
I have always been a big proponent of teaching science where science happens. Why read about insects in a book when you can go outside and observe and collect the little critters. Science is in the world and all around you and it is experiences like this one in Hawaii, and like the experience I had taking my 5th grade class to Yellowstone for a week to participate in the large mammal count and to take mini classes in identification of plant and animal life that really turn kids on (and adults too!) to science. There is no doubt in my mind that these A.P. Biology kids learned a ton of science from this experience and because they learned it through active participation and hands-on learning through inquiry / discovery means that they will retain the experience and the knowledge for a very long time. Who knows, they might even remember the content better for the A.P. Biology placement exam that they all were signed up to take in the Spring.
Thanks Jack for allowing me to be part
of this experience and also in reminding me of how much fun science really
is when you learn it in the context of where it takes place. And, for you
kids out there that have had the opportunity to have Jack and one of these
other wonderful teachers as part of your schooling - you don't know how
lucky you are.
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