Lahaina student reads her story at the IUCN World Conservation Congress
LAHAINA – Sacred Hearts School seventh-grader Lexi Cowan was named a winner in the My Hawai’i Story Contest 2016, earning her a trip to Oahu this week to read her work at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress.
Her story called “The Legend of Kaimana” was selected from more than 500 contest entries that reflected the theme “Planet at the crossroads.”
Teacher Mary Anna Grimes encouraged her middle school English and literature students to enter the contest. Cowan submitted her piece last year as a sixth-grader.
Grimes made her students repeatedly revise their stories and poems, and seventh-grader Sydney McCarney said the students worked together on the entries.
“We all kind of helped each other; we all read each other’s stories and proofread each other’s stories,” McCarney explained.
“The Legend of Kaimana” is about a Maui boy, Kepa Aloha, whose family doesn’t take good care of the land. Kepa prays that someone or something can help him teach his family.
God sends Kaimana, a mongoose and protector of the Hawaiian land, to teach Kepa’s family how to care for the ‘aina.
Kaimana reveals that he was once a boy who dumped trash into the ocean and didn’t care about the land. God turned him into a mongoose; if Kaimana can teach a family how to live properly with nature, he will become a Hawaiian deity.
Cowan explained why “The Legend of Kaimana” is a Hawaii story: “Well, because here – everywhere in general – there’s a lot of trash, and everybody just does not care for it really. And I was just trying to put that out there that you need to care for the land and not be disrespectful.”
She added that the “Planet at the crossroads” theme at the IUCN World Conservation Congress boils down to caring more about the environment.
“‘Planet at the crossroads’ denotes the state of the environment as it is now. There is a lot of pollution and problems going on with the world, but there is also a lot of awareness and things done to remedy that,” classmate Kiana Tuttle explained.
“Because with this current generation, we could go one or two ways – basically, a crossroads. We could do our best to renew the environment and become more world-oriented, so that we don’t destroy the world we’ve been given, or we could continue on our current path with the pollution and everything, and end up destroying everything… We have a choice, and it’s up to us to make that decision, whether it be right or wrong.”
Cowan and Grimes were excited when they learned the story was named a winner in the contest. Grimes said students in grades 6-8 submitted 70-75 entries.
“Some of the entries were so good in writing that I was researching online how to do children’s publishing of stories, because they blew me away, how good they were,” Grimes said.
Once she saw Cowan’s name on the winners’ list, “there was just joy, because her story was very unique,” Grimes added. “It was a family story.”
The daughter of Cyndi and Lance Cowan will join other contest winners and read her story at a World Conservation Congress luncheon – potentially before world leaders – and be able to attend other events at the global summit on Oahu with her mother. Held every four years, the congress helps shape the direction of conservation and sustainable development.
Grimes emphasizes environmental themes in her classroom, particularly Malama Honua, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Worldwide Voyage, because she has served as a crewmember.
She strives to offer her students opportunities, so they can find their own niche in environmental stewardship, such as reef protection, renewable resources and Cowan’s concerns about litter.
“I’mjust trying to open up as many ecological ideas to them, and let the students take it,” Grimes said.
She also encourages students to enter competitions with powerful themes, such as the Eddie Aikau Writing Contest and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest.