Exploring Our Watershed - Mid-Pacific Institute

3/4 Montes

Exploring Our Watershed

Posted on October 1, 2017

by Ms. Montes on October 1, 2017

Last week, we went on our first learning and observation trip of the school year. We explored the Nu'uanu watershed with our friend, Kumu Leong from the Papahana Kuaola - Lelekamanu Program. We were very excited to begin to discover and understand this big concept of a watershed.

Prior to going on the trip, we spent time at different spots around the campus practicing our observation skills. We determined that making observations was an important inquiry skill. After each of our practice sessions, we discussed what it is we are actually doing when we observe.

Some of the tools we use when making observations include: looking at the big picture and the small picture, wondering and asking questions, looking with our eyes, listening to the sounds around us, making connections to what we know or have experienced, feeling with our heart, noticing any smells that catch our attention, and many more. The students came to the conclusion that when they observe, they are using their whole body. Their observations may be recorded with photos, drawings, words, and probably more that we have not discovered yet.

With this in mind, we were ready to go!



Our first stop was the Nu'uanu Reservoir #4. We met Kumu Aiu with the Board of Water Supply. He shared with us this beautiful and important part of our watershed.


One student made the connection: "I live in a watershed. We all live in a watershed!"

Another student asked, "Where is Nu'uanu Reservoir #1? I still want to know where it is." (She and a friend had been looking at Nu'uanu Valley on Google Earth, the day before our learning trip).




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This is an old, above-ground, sand filtration pit. This water source used to supply the Nu'uanu community.


Kumu Aiu challenged the students to observe the forest and notice the invasive and native plants. He asked how many native plants they observed. We saw several canoe plants, but only 2 native plants - hau and koa. The students formed a circle to demonstrate the size of the koa trees in old Hawaii.

In her observation notebook, one student asked, "What happened to all the big koa trees?"


A quiet moment to observe the reservoir and the Board of Water Supply equipment. Here we heard the mo'olelo (stories) of the waterfalls at the top of Nu'uanu Valley. Much of our learning with Kumu Leong and Kumu Aiu is through mo'olelo and the lessons they teach. It is a powerful and enjoyable way of passing knowledge from one generation to another.

Next stop - Windward Mall and Kea'ahala Stream.

On the He'eia side of Windward Mall, we had the opportunity to observe this channelized stream up close. Many of the students noticed that there was rubbish in the canal and that it did not seem very clean.

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Right next to the stream is this very unassuming patch of weeds (?). Actually, not weeds. This is a rain garden. It is designed to catch pollution, oil, and debris running off the mall parking lot into Kea'ahala stream. All of the plants in the garden are actually native plants that are very effective at filtering and cleaning the water that runs past them. This rain garden catches up to 90% of the pollution that would run into the stream from the parking lot.


One student wondered in his observation notebook: "The garden doesn't look like anything, but it is really strong. I wonder how it stops the pollution?"

Another student asked, "What if the garden didn't catch the pollution? What would happen to the stream and the fish?"

This is Kea'ahala Stream.

Just a short distance up the road is Ha'iku Stream. It is amazing how different these two streams are.
Our final stop was at the Waipao, the home of Papahana Kuaola. It is one of my favorite places on the island. If you ever get a chance to visit, or better yet give a little of your time to community service here, it will be well worth it. This is a hidden gem that takes you back to a time when our islands were not so developed.
At Waipao, the students had an opportunity to sit beside He'eia stream and quietly observe. Many reflected on the differences between the two streams. They all mentioned that they preferred the natural stream to the channelized stream.




One student asked, "Can we put rocks into the other stream so the fish have a place to live and hide?"
Our final learning moment was with a watershed model. The students sprinkled baking soda, kool-aid, and cocoa on different parts of the watershed. Then they spritzed water to simulate rain. They were able to experience a concrete demonstration of point source and non-point source pollution.




After the cocoa was "rained on," one student exclaimed that, "The runoff looks just like the ocean after it rains!" What a great connection to end our day of observing and learning with.
As you can see, we had a great day of learning and observation. This inquiry is off to a great start! One of the most exciting parts of this inquiry is that we are allowing the students to lead the way. We are guided by their observations, connections, and wonderings. It is going to be a great adventure to see where this leads. But I can promise you, it will a journey of amazing learning!