2012 Kauai IN STEP Children’s Science Show

Volunteering at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (here’s a previous post if you missed it), is already opening all sorts of unexpected and enjoyable opportunities to me, in addition to simply chatting with and informing visitors at Kilauea Point.

Last week I was at the Kauai IN STEP Children’s Science Show in Lihue. It’s a two-day science and technology fair, where businesses/groups explain to kids (from 4th, 6th, and 8th grades) how they use technology in their day-to-day work. This year KPNWR were one of five groups invited to participate – the others being the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Kauai Utility Cooperatie (KIUC), Hawaiian Telecom, and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) which manages the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The kids were split up into groups and were shuttled between the five stations for a mere 10 minute presentation at each.

Myself and another volunteer were there with a Ranger (Sheri), ostensibly to talk about the various technologies that help us at the Refuge, but at the same time to enthuse them about conservation, and maybe light a fire in them that might lead to a future career, or at least foster another caring volunteer.

The kids were tremendous. They came to us in groups of anything from 10 to 25 or more, and had to deal with a great deal of noise and chaos around them, as we were all in a large conference hall. They sat on the floor and were (mostly) fascinated to listen to Sheri, as she explained how the birds were here long before us, and talked of the responsibility we have to safeguard them. We fielded a remarkable number of thoughtful questions from genuinely interested minds.

Sheri’s pitch was guaranteed to peak their interest. Many of these kids go hunting with their dads, and have some familiarity with, for example, the remote scout cameras that we use to keep track of birds and also their predators. So, she pointed out a camera that was ‘watching’ them from the moment they arrived.

Garmin GPSThe idea of using technology as a form of ‘spying’ appealed to that age group. 😉 So their eyes opened even wider as we demo’d the ‘burrow-cam’ (a car mechanic’s flexible inspection camera), as well as the handheld GPS gizmo that rangers use to record the position of the remote cameras.

One of the most successful visual aids was the brief video clip we had set up on a continuous loop in the center of our display table. Recorded by an infra-red remote camera, it captured a cat scaring a Nene (Hawaiian goose) from its nest and attempting to grab an egg.

That story had a happy ending: after repeated attempts, the cat was unsuccessful, the Nene returned, and the chick eventually hatched. Since we had the GPS location of that specific camera, the rangers were able to trap the cat a few days later; it was neutered by the Kauai Humane Society and relocated.