Wordwide Voyage crewmembers visit a Reef Guardian school where students are learning by preserving the Great Barrier Reef.
“If we desire a safe and healthy thriving world for our children, it has to be taught. And so we arrived here, at this school. And so what’s here at the core of the school is value-based education,” said master navigator Nainoa Thompson.
“It’s called the Reef Guardian School’s Program, and it encompasses three hundred and ten schools throughout the Great Barrier Reef who are all committed to being stewards to the reef. They could be inland, along the mountains, they could be along a creek or they could be right along the reef,” said Jenna Ishii, an apprentice navigator on Hōkūleʻa.
“Reef Guardians, for us, it’s all about making it real. We find over the years that with us making science real for the kids instead of them looking at a picture on a screen or in a book, if we can make the reef real and it’s actually there in their classroom. They can see the interaction. It just makes it that little bit more real. The good thing about this room and these hands on activities, we found over the years, is a lot of the kids that haven’t enjoyed school are now enjoying school because it’s something different and it ignites that excitement, and we’re trying to make it real life learning and we’re teaching the kids that they can make a difference,” said Brett Murphy, a teacher at the Belgian Gardens State School.
“Tara was one of the amazing students who you could just tell got it. She understood who she was, why she was here, what she loved about her community, and how to take action,” said Jenna.
“So if we don’t look after it then, we’re not going to have anything left with the reef. So with all the tanks the clownfish, we’re breeding them and selling them,” said Tara Dirden, a student at the Belgian Gardens State School.
“I said why are you breeding these beautiful clown fish, what is the purpose, and they said you know a lot of people are taking these beautiful fish from the reef and putting in their aquariums. This is our way to stop that from happening, and I said what are you doing when you sell the fish, where does the money go. They said all the money they raise from growing their fish goes back to sustaining their programs,” said Jenna.
“I really enjoy the programs of BCG, the students actually get to feed the fish and clean the tanks, which I think is a great opportunity. We’re the only school in the world to be breeding clownfish and to actually have a full room of just tanks of fish that we breed” said Tara.
“Tara has got a real interest in fish. and she’s wanting to actually sell the fish and donate the money back to the school. So we’re actually talking about setting up a tank here and calling it the Tara tank,” said Brett.
“For us, it was fascinating to see children – primary school age – to make these big connections into their world that it wasn’t just about learning math for math and science for science. But they were learning their core subjects through caring for the reef and they were connecting all the dots and they can further outreach into their community,” said Jenna.
“I saw children from kindergarten through sixth grade that are learning science, that are learning technology, they’re learning hydroponics. They’re learning marine biology. They’re learning how to raise birds in these gardens, and it’s all tied to this place. It’s all tied to the schools being a tool to build better communities. It’s kind of like the blueprint that we’re looking for as we go around the planet,” said Nainoa.
“These kids are set to be innovators, to be visionaries to take ownership of their own learning. And if all of our kids in Hawaiʻi could feel empowered to look at their ahupuaʻa, to look at their reefs, their forests, their creeks and look how everything is connected, I think that is one of the biggest lessons we’re going to take home,” said Jenna.
“We arrived, at a destination that I think is what we’re seeking on this Worldwide Voyage, places that are nurturing children to be prepared and knowledgeable and skilled and educated to take care of the earth,” said Nainoa.