Sacred Hearts School eighth-graders visit Pu‘u Kukui
LAHAINA – On Feb. 18, 2020, our eighth grade class from Sacred Hearts School, Lahaina, visited the Pu’u Kukui Watershed via Mahana Ridge trail to help remove invasive trees and species along with planting native A’ali’i trees.
Six of us had previously won money from a Blue Planet Conference in Oahu after promoting our idea to increase CO2.
Our idea involved helping our native forests to grow and thrive by ridding them of the invasive trees that take up much-needed room and sunlight.
We were given an amount of $300 to complete our idea, and we immediately reached out to Kevin from HeleWai Eco-Tours, who works in partnership with Pu’u Kukui Watershed Preserve, and scheduled a time we could go up and initiate our idea.
Bringing our whole class with us, we were able to learn and indulge ourselves in the stories and beautiful sites.
We learned about many different plants and animals, like the Ohia lehua tree that has these beautiful red flowers. The ‘Iiwi is a small red native bird with a curved beak that drinks nectar from the Ohia flowers.
Another tree we learned about is the guava tree, which is an invasive tree. The guava tree has very smooth bark to funnel all the water it can down to its roots.
We saw on our hike a big guava tree that was taking the water from an old Ohia tree, so the Ohia tree wrapped its roots around the guava tree base so it could steal its water back.
Most plants are invasive because of how quickly the invasive species grow and how slow the native species take to grow.
The goal of the trip was to cut down and pull out invasive plants and to plant native trees.
While stopping to rest and observe our surroundings, our tour guide, Kevin, taught us about traditional Hawaiian legends.
He told us about the tragic love story of the Lehua Blossom and the Ohia Tree. There once was a beautiful village girl named Lehua who was lovers with a handsome and powerful warrior called Ohia.
They spent their time together dancing and singing in the forest. One day, Pele, goddess of volcanoes, approached Ohia and asked him to run away with her, but he refused.
In a fit of rage, Pele cursed Ohia to become a tree. Heartbroken, Lehua ran through the forest crying, but was fortunately pitied by the Gods.
They reunited Lehua and Ohia by making Lehua a beautiful red flower that would rest on the tree’s branches. Allegedly, every time someone picks a Lehua blossom, it rains for three days because the Gods are crying over the separation of the two lovers.
On our field trip, we not only experienced planting, but we also learned many things.
Throughout the field trip, we were educated on native plants, animals and the things around us.
We learned about the native forest, which has layers of plants – canopy, middle story and understory.
With all these layers in the native forest, water slows down and filters down to aquifer.
This native forest is extremely important for our watershed and the water we drink.
Our field trip was a success! The eighth grade class of Sacred Hearts was immersed in the experience of planting and learning about our island’s fauna and invasive species.
Thanks to the staff at the Pu’u Kukui Watershed, we were able to hike through an educational journey.
From this, we acquired a newfound interest and knowledge on the fauna of our island and its effect on our environment and water supply.
(Mahalo to eighth grade students Kalia Hendrickson, Jackie Nguyen, Presley Williams, Alyssa Arango and Katelyn Alana for contributing this article.)