By Sarah Pacheco, Hawaii Army Weekly, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, April 26, 2013
HALEIWA, Hawaii (April 26, 2013) -- Nearly 150 Hale Kula Elementary School second-graders descended onto the sleepy North Shore town of Haleiwa in the early hours April 22.
Their objective was simple: Clean up Ali'i Beach Park in honor of Earth Day.
"It's important to pick up trash because animals can die," said Harmonie Thomas, 7.
"(Animals) can get sick because they eat the trash because they think it's their food," added classmate Connor Elser, 8. "If a plastic bag was in the ocean, the sea turtle will think it's a jellyfish, and so (the turtle) will eat it and then get sick."
Billed as the classes' EPIC field trip -- short for Economics and People In our Community -- the day of outdoor service paired with learning was the vision of Hale Kula teachers Leslie Woods, Cheri Masumoto and Kim Uyehara.
"We were trying to brainstorm an activity for recycling, because that's a big unit for the fourth quarter, and we wanted to brainstorm something that we could do to give back to the community and include the Army," explained Woods.
"We've been trying to think of a good field trip for many years," added Masumoto. "One day, Mrs. Woods came up to this beach park and saw the sea turtles, and she came up with the idea that we should have a beach cleanup."
From there, the teachers reached out to Sgt. Eli Walters of the Honolulu Police Department's District 2 (Wahiawa) Community Policing Team, who helped coordinate involvement from local service workers from HPD, the Honolulu Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services, as well as lifeguards from the City and County of Honolulu's Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services.
Sgt. Thomas Calhoun, patrol supervision, 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, also attended to share with students the ins and outs of being an MP in the U.S. Army.
"In the third quarter, we teach about service workers, which is why we wanted to include them," Woods said. "Plus, actually sitting in the ambulance is exciting for (the students), and so is talking with the lifeguards and hearing the sirens from the police car."
The field trip began with the seven classes dividing into three groups, which then rotated between activities throughout the morning.
For example, as one group toured an ambulance and learned about ocean safety, another group collected rubbish from the grassy park, while the third group walked to nearby Matsumoto's for a lesson on economics (and for a well-deserved treat of shave ice!).
"I know Mrs. Matsumoto, so we wanted to go to a business to see how to save money and spend money, which is another one of our units," explained Woods.
"(The field trip) was a culmination of the community service workers (classroom portion), reduce, reuse and recycle … plus, it's our last field trip of the year, so it's exciting for the kids," Woods continued. "And, this is so close to their home, but some of them don't get out here, so it's a good way for them to get out of their own little enclave."
"(The field trip) was fun because of the shave ice and lunch," Thomas said, with a giggle.
"I learned that there's an oxygen tank under the seat in the ambulance," Elser added.
"And I learned that the firemen and the police don't only do their jobs; they also help doctors, and they help other people," Thomas replied.
"I think they really got the message of the day," Masumoto said. "When I was picking up trash with my class, they were questioning, 'Why are people just throwing trash on the ground when there's a trash can right there?' I think they are getting the right idea."
According to Woods, plans have already been set for next year's field trip, which they all hope to be bigger and more EPIC than this inaugural event.
"I'm already thinking a year out," Woods said. "We've already scheduled the park for next Earth Day, and we're already thinking up ways to fundraise. Hopefully it doesn't rain next year!"