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Maui Prep Lower School students research the impacts of tourism on the island

By Staff | Jan 30, 2020

One group of students is working on recycling solutions.

NAPILI – How does tourism impact Maui?

“It’s a loaded question,” admitted Hannah Ricci, third grade Maui Preparatory Academy teacher, but that didn’t stop her from asking the Lower School students, ages eight to 11, to find answers.

“After many field trips and speaking to experts, our kids chose the impacts that were most interesting to them. Four groups were born out of these impacts: a sunscreen group, a coral protection group, an air pollution group and a trash/recycling group. Each group delved further into their topic and have come up with different solutions,” Ricci advised the Lahaina News.

“The sunscreen group made their own sunscreen and raised funding for their business. The air pollution group and trash/recycling groups have recognized the obvious pollution problem here on Maui and are developing models to combat it,” Ricci explained, “and my group has chosen to raise awareness of coral bleaching and how it impacts our community.”

Fourth grade and Lower School Lead Teacher Nikki Meenzhuber joined Ricci and her students on the quest, and the results have been compelling.

Meenzhuber’s team launched a startup – Aloha Makai – and is prepping to market a reef-safe sunscreen, using the following natural ingredients: almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, bees wax, red raspberry oil and non-nano zinc oxide powder.

The students did their homework.

“Michico Smith and Liz Choate from Rebel Hawaii (rebelhawaii.org) came into our class and gave an amazing presentation about harmful sunscreen and why reef-safe sunscreen is so important to use in Hawaii,” Meenzhuber said.

“We also walked down to the Napili Farmer’s Market and met with April, who makes Lahaina Organics sunscreen. We asked her questions about her business and recipe, and she was very helpful,” Meenzhuber added.

The environmentally-friendly product is being prepped for sale at a cost of $10 for a four-ounce jar.

Startup funds to buy supplies and ingredients were needed, and potential investors were invited to hear their “Shark Tank” pitch.

Our head of school, Robert Landau, and a parent, Qiana Di Bari, both agreed to give us $100 in exchange for 10 percent in our company,” Meenzhuber said.

“Right now we have purchased all ingredients and have started making sunscreen. We have not started selling yet.”

This is where the coral protection team steps in, hosting a free screening of “Chasing Coral,” a Netflix documentary, to raise awareness about coral bleaching and how it impacts the community. The event will be held on Friday, Feb. 21, at the Maui Ocean Center Sphere.

At the same time, the Aloha Makai product will be offered for sale.

Leaving no stone unturned, food and refreshments will be available at the aquarium, with a percentage of the sales donated to coral research.

With space limited to attend this complimentary event, it is recommended to reserve tickets in advance at www.eventbrite.com/e/film-screening-chasing-corals-tickets-88737278589.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; the film will screen from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

“Our goal,” Meenzhuber explained, “is to educate tourists and give them another option” – to use a sunscreen that will protect their skin but not harm the reef.

The air pollution and trash/recycling contingents were busy as well, recognizing “the obvious on-island pollution problems and developing models to combat it,” Ricci observed.

Sharing valuable information, landfill supervisor Harry Kahunanui took them on a tour of the County of Maui Central Landfill, where the elementary school students learned of the dire need for a long-term solution for trash management on our land-limited island.

“We have been to the Lahaina Redemption Center to see what can currently be recycled on Maui,” Ricci continued. “We went to Whaler’s Village to see what (if any) recycling efforts are being made. We did not see anything readily available for tourists and guests of the center to recycle.”

The group discovered recycling is extremely limited on Maui, Ricci observed.

Research proved to be a worthy tool, seeking what solutions other countries have used and what models are being developed to combat it.

An expo at Maui Prep is planned to exhibit the solutions learned.

Grades will not be given for this challenging educational exercise.

“Giving a grade – which is a subjective reward – to an activity that could have limitless and world-changing outcomes would be meaningless,” Ricci advised.

“This project won’t end in six weeks, or ten weeks, or at the end of the year. It is just the beginning of a lifetime of discovery and growth for these young students.

“My goal is to see them ignited and motivated to be the lifelong learners I know each of them is capable of becoming.”