PODCAST: Meet the young people turning malama aina into a daily routine

Mia Wooden, Priscilla Louie and Pono Wong are eighth graders at SEEQS Charter School.
Mia Wooden, Priscilla Louie and Pono Wong are eighth graders at SEEQS Charter School.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 7:25 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 11:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nestled in Nuuanu, educators are working to build the next generation of youth environmental warriors.

Their mantra is sustainability and every day students are taking malama aina to heart and to action.

Mia Wooden, Priscilla Louie and Pono Wong are eighth graders at the School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability, widely known as SEEQS.

From investigating real-world issues through project-based coursework that integrates the environment and community to actually getting their hands dirty in their school garden or picking up trash, students at this public charter school are not only learning about the Earth but they are also caring for it.

The three middle schoolers sat down with HNN in the eighth episode of “Repairing Earth,” explaining what sets their school apart from others across the state and why the fight against climate change is at the forefront of their minds.

What worries you about climate change?

“What really scares me is a lot of the natural disasters that are starting to happen,” Priscilla said. “The world is getting warmer. So of course, there’s going to be more natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes and all that. It really scares me. And also, if climate change gets really bad, a lot of our resources are going to start running out.”

“Another thing that worries me is how hot the air has become and all the glaciers that are melting,” Mia said. “I’ve heard that a couple of inches of water have been raised recently. It doesn’t sound like that much, but if you compare it to how much water is across the whole Earth, the amount is shocking.”

Similarly, Pono said, “I think what worries me is going underwater.”

How do you stay positive about climate change?

“I think the best way to stay positive about it is to actually do things — not just hope for people to do things,” Pono said. “I think that’s a problem that a lot of people have is they know about the issues, but they don’t themselves go out and try to fix the issue.”

Mia said that actively working to help our planet is what keeps her positive, adding that small steps do make a difference.

“I hope to see a lot more trash cleanups at the beach, rivers, on hikes and basically everywhere. But also I’d just like to see a lot more solar panels on houses,” she said.

Priscilla added that fighting climate change has to be a team effort.

“If it’s only one or two people, it’s not going to make that much of a difference, but if we all work together to find the root causes of climate change and actually do something about it together as a team, I think that’ll definitely make a difference,” she said.

“And if we can find ways to convince the higher ups, the government and all that to help us a little bit — because they have the power and resources — I think that’ll help our world.”

What is your favorite school project that you’ve worked on so far?

“My favorite project was a part of last year’s EQS: Aina and People. It was just growing gardens because I’m one of those people who really likes gardening, especially harvesting and seeing how far the seeds in the ground have grown,” Mia said.

Priscilla added, “A lot of my favorite projects are actually the same with Mia because I’ve had a good amount of classes with her, but this is more of a mini project. In math class, we did a lot of research about plants to figure out how they grow and how long it takes for certain plants to get to certain heights. So, we used our math skills to find different plants that would be good for us to grow — like different native plants and native trees, especially because recently one of our school trees fell over.”

Pono also took his lessons in gardening from school and turned it into a home project.

“Since here at SEEQS we do so much gardening with native plants and food, I talked to my family and I was like, ‘Let’s make a home garden.’ So right now, we’re in the planning phase. We’re getting everything ready, we’re setting up the space,” he said.

“I think that’s something that makes me really happy because this school helped me figure out a new passion — that I love gardening.”

How does caring for the aina make you feel?

“I’m gonna be honest. I’m usually a really, really lazy person, but when I’m actually doing this work, I have a motivation,” Priscilla said. ”I’m helping out the world that I live in. I feel like, ‘Wow, I’m actually doing something.’ And that’s amazing.”

“Caring for the aina makes me feel really good and also just happy because I’m planting plants and watering them and caring for them,” Mia said.

Pono added, “When I’m helping the aina, I’m helping myself. I’m helping my friends, I’m helping my family and helping everyone on the planet. And that just makes me feel so, so good inside.”

For more on the conversation, listen to Episode 8 of Repairing Earth, “Young Climate Warriors Sound the Alarm,” on the HNN website or anywhere you get your podcasts.