Saturday, June 30, 2007

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 4

The last three days of the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp flew by. As I type this on Saturday evening, I can't believe that it is over. Oh well, coming from a life long Boston Red Sox fan, there's always next year...and the students are already asking us to make it two weeks, instead of just one week, long.

We'll see about that.

Thursday ending up being our longest day. The day started at 7 AM. Two of the students, Bree, and I appeared on the Harry Blalock Island Issues radio program to talk about our camp. We were on the show for about 20 minutes and Harry grilled the two students, Sami and Zoe, about the things they have learned this week. He also helped us record environmental public service announcments after our interview.

Harry was so impressed by the girls and the other campers that he wrote about them on his blog and on his weekly radio commentary, Food For Thought:

Then I also wanted to spend a little time talking about a group of bright young students Angelo Villagomez and Bree Reynolds brought in to my studio Thursday morning. They are part of the Beautify CNMI Marianas Challenge Summer Camp, being put on by Angelo and Bree. These students really are learning about our environment, and what they can do to help protect it. I made sure they've learned something by grilling them with questions on Island Issues. Sami and Zoe totally impressed me with what they've learned and their passion about it. The only thing that caused me any concern at all was that Sami was just way too relaxed and good on the radio. I'm afraid she could replace me in a heartbeat if she wanted to, my only consolation is that she's just going in to the 9th grade this coming year, so my job is probably safe for a couple years anyway.

Part of what they did in this camp was to write public service announcements from what they have learned to air on the radio stations. Some of them even wrote an original song about beautifying the CNMI, they wrote the words and music. They came in with their ukelele and recorded the song in my production studio. I've got to say, I absolutely love it! You'll be hearing a lot of that song and those psa's in the coming months on both of our radio stations. What a talented group of students, and something tells me these are our leaders of tomorrow. If you'd like to see some of the pictures from their summer camp, and learn what it was all about, you can go to the website and read all about it. Tasi Tours deserves a big thank you for donating a van and driver to help transport the campers all week to their various places. And after hearing from the students on the air, Ed Salas of Tan Holdings Corporation called up donating Shirleys lunch for all the campers that day. They had talked about how the camp was being run on a shoestring budget and they were just making do with whatever they had, so Ed called up on behalf of Tan Holdings to give them a break from peanut butter or bologna for lunch. Many thanks go out to all the various people in the community who chip in to make amazing events like this happen. And while you could technically say this was job related for Angelo, Bree is a science teacher at Hopwood Junior High School, and is supposed to be on summer vacation right now. But she loves what she's doing so much, and loves the students so much, that she donated her time to help put on this summer camp.

I think I can forgive him for calling the Micronesia Challenge the Marianas Challenge.

After several hours at the radio station we returned to Hopwood to finish up work on the coral reef models and the wastewater science projects, which led right into lunch provided by Shirley's Coffee Shop and Tan Holdings. We also worked out some of the logistics for Friday's field trips to American Memorial Park and Managaha.

After lunch we had about 30 minutes before we left for our afternoon field trip, so Bree had the students play a couple of games based on communicable diseases.

In the first game they were given a series of clues and a map of a city suffering from disease outbreaks. Using the clues, they had to determine what disease people were contracting, how the disease was being spread (water borne, etc.), and the source of the disease (the water pump on Broad Street, etc.).

Then Tasi Tours picked us up at 1:30 and took us to the CUC Waste Water Treatment plant in Sadog Tasi...or as I like to call it, Wave Jungle II.

Our tour of the facility started in the lab. Heidi showed the students the lab and showed them how they check for bacteria in the water.

We also asked Heidi to talk about becoming a lab chemist for a career. She told the students that they had to be good at Math.

After letting use a microscope and showing us the different ways that CUC tests the effluent water, Heidi took us to the Brown Jacuzzi.

Ew. This is where CUC "cleans" the water. Using a process that I would only screw up if I tried to explain, CUC gets rid of all the solids and then dump the remaining liquids into the lagoon. Yum!

While we were contemplating joining the "Swim Club," some other CUC employees joined us. This led to one of the best moments of the camp.

Heidi asked one of the guys if there was anything he wanted to tell the kids. Without hesitation he responded, "well, kids, please don't flush your underwear down the toilet. You wouldn't believe the kinds of things we find: Shoes, underwear, even cellphones."

I'm probably going to repeat that story for the next five years.

Mylene wrote about Day 4 on her blog, Mylene Rocks.

I've got pictures and stories from Friday and Saturday morning, but I haven't uploaded the pictures yet. Come back tomorrow for an update. If the post isn't up by tomorrow, just keep waiting.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Student PSAs

Bree, Sami, Zoe, and I appeared on the Harry Blalock Island Issues show yesterday morning. We talked about the camp and what we've been doing all week. The girls did a great job on the show. They impressed Harry so much, that he even wrote about them on his blog.

After the show we recorded the PSAs that the kids have been working on all week. All of the PSAs were written and performed by the kids. The music and the lyrics for the song are original, too. Check 'em out:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 3

brown tree snakeThis morning we were visited by Marja and Tony from Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Brown Tree Snake Program. They gave a power presentation on the history and current operations of the Brown Tree Snake Program in the CNMI.

They also brought two snake dogs.

Brown Tree Snake DogMina is a two year old pit bull/Labrador mix. During a demonstration, Mina was able to find a snake hidden in a bucket…twice!

Jack is a Jack Russell Terrier. The students hid a snake in a bag in the classroom and Jack was able to find it in seconds.

The kids were able to hold the snake...and so did I:

Tony and Marja worked with the kids for over two hours. Thank you so much, Tony and Marja! The students really appreciated the time you spent with them.

After the snake team left we worked on our environmental PSAs.

PSA time led right into lunch...Baloney and mayo sandwiches! Yum!

After lunch, using a microscope, the students drew models of the different parts of a plant cell, talking about the differences between a plant cell and an animal cell.

They looked at plant cells under a microscope and drew sketches of what they saw.

Then the kids worked on a coral reef project. Using card board, paper, clay, rocks, beans, and pasta they created a model of a coral reef. Here is the metamorphosis from simple classroom supplies to coral reef model:

coral reef modelcoral reef modelcoral reef modelcoral reef modelPretty good, huh? This is a fringing reef. The other two groups did a coral atoll and a barrier reef.

Bree ReynoldsThen as a preview to our Wastewater Treatment Plant field trip scheduled for Thursday, we did a waste water experiment where we gave the students sand, baking soda, vinegar, cotton, coffee filters, and paper towels. We gave them wastewater made from peanut butter, soy sauce, coffee, onions, leaves, beans, and another assorted fun things. The students had to return the pH of the water to 7 and take out all of the coloring until it was clear.

Here are some of the simple tools we gave the students to clean the wastewater:

wastewaterWe didn't tell the kids how to clean the water; they had to figure it out on thier own. They figured out that they should use a funnel to clean the water:

Filtering WaterwaterThe day ended before we finished this experiment, so we put everything aside to finish the next day.

Finally, Mylene and Hope both wrote about Day 3 on their personal blogs. Keep up the blogging, girls!

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 2

BlowfishDay 2 of the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Camp was spent at the Traditional Fishing Workshop held at the Pacific Islands Club. The day long workshop was reported on by the Marianas Variety:

Workshop discusses traditional fishing
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

THREE local fishermen discussed traditional fishing methods during a workshop at the Pacific Islands Club yesterday.

The workshop, spearheaded by the Children of Our Homeland Center, aims to educate the public on traditional fishing techniques which, according to assistant project coordinator Anicia Q. Tomokane, not only help conserve marine resources but also promote the local people’s cultural identity.

Funded by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the whole-day workshop was also sponsored by Northern Marianas College’s Cooperative Research Extension and Education Services and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library.

Traditional fishing, according to one of the presenters, Stan M. Taisacan, is something that has not been practiced for the past 40 years.

Taisacan, who represents Rota on the Commonwealth Council for Arts & Culture board of directors, discussed the “achuman technique” of gathering fish.

It is done with a use of poiu, a device made of stone and coconut shell, and young coconut meat as bait.

“This one is better in conserving marine resources because with this method, you will get only what you need,” he said.

And it is not difficult to catch fish when one masters the technique, he said.
Lino Olopai, a Carolinian culture lecturer, shared his knowledge on traditional fish traps.

He demonstrated the use of ull wall osch, a woven fish trap used for general reef fish; the breadfruit leaf kite used to catch “needlefish without the use of a metal hook; and the use of coconut shell with line and bait to catch flying fish.

Artist, Chamorro historian researcher and lecturer, and experimental archeologist, Noel B. Quitugua, discussed traditional tools and fishing implements.

Jack Ogumoro, the CNMI coordinator of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, acted as moderator in the workshop.

He said they are now trying not only to talk about traditional fishing but also practicing it.

Traditional fishing should now be incorporated into modern management tools for the conservation and protection of marine resources, he said.

Traditional fishing techniques, he added, “are based on responsible fishing. They promote respect for the ocean.”

Dr. Teny Topalian, coral reef ecologist of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s Pacific Island Regional Office, discussed how traditional fishing techniques help promote the preservation of marine biodiversity and cultural diversity.

Ann Asis Tores, a young participant from Hopwood Junior High School, described the workshop as “fascinating.”

I didn't take many pictures at the workshop, so this is going to be the boring post. I do have one picture of all the participants though:

Traditional Fishing WorkshopMylene also talked about Day 2 on her blog, Mylene Rocks.

Thanks to our sponsors!

Tasi ToursI have to give a huge thank you to the businesses that supported the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp. Tasi Tours offered to drive the students around to our different field trips all week FREE OF CHARGE. PSS does not have money to pay for gas, so we were extremely lucky that they are so generous.

Thank you, Tasi Tours!

ShirleysWe also owe a huge thank you to Ed Salas and Tan Holdings. Mr. Salas heard us on the Harry Blalock Island Issues radio show this morning talking about how we are running the camp on a shoe string budget. On Monday we had P&J sandwiches for lunch, on Tuesday we had the dollar menu at McDonalds, on Wednesday we had baloney and mayo, and due to Tan Holdings generosity, we feasted on Shirley's today.

Tan Holdings gave us $100 worth of food!

Thank you, Tan Holdings! Go visit Shirley's at the Thursday Street Market and at the Liberation Day Carnival. Thank them for me!

Students' Perspectives

Mylene and Hope have written about the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp on their blogs.

Mylene wrote about Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 and Hope wrote about Day 3, which was her first day at the camp.

I have already posted a report for Day 1. Reports for the rest of the week are forthcoming.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 1

The goals of the Beautify CNMI Micronesia Summer Camp are to introduce kids to conservation issues, the Micronesia Challenge, and environmental careers.

We had a very successful Day 1.

Kathy Yuknavage, Natural Resource Planner at CRM and MINA Secretary, helped us kick off the week long camp by making a presentation on the terrestrial portion of the Micronesia Challenge. She talked to the students about the 20%, how much land the CNMI already has in protected areas, and how much of that land is in forested areas.

She also made a presentation on the Walk It, Don’t Drive It Campaign. The students learned about the different reasons not to D.R.I.VE. on the beach: Driving on the beach Drips oil, creates Ruts, Impacts the sand, and kills Vegetation.

After the presentations by Kathy we did an energizer/ice breaker. We played boffer tag.

Our first activity was an experiment to determine how many germs are on our hands when we eat. We took a slice of bread and had someone handle it who hadn’t washed their hands. We put the bread slice in a zip lock bag and put it aside. We repeated this with slices of bread that had been handled by someone who had washed their hands with water only, who had washed their hands with soap and water, and who had washed their hands with hand sanitizer only. We also repeated the experiment with someone who had used soap & water, but who had only lathered for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes, and three minutes.

We'll take a look at them again on Friday.

We are going to record some environmental PSAs for the local radio station on Thursday. We gave the kids some time to start writing them. Some of the students are writing scripts, some are writing songs, and others just wrote first person dialogues.

Then we used a chemistry kit that taught the kids about the scientific method. It came with known and unknown chemical liquids that when mixed, changed color. The students mixed the known liquids and made observations of the changes. Then using those results, they tried to determine the content of the unknown liquids.

In typical Beautify CNMI fashion, lunch was provided on a shoestring budget. We fed the kids P&J sandwiches, apples, and water.

Soil TypesAfter lunch, Brad Doerr, a MINA member and local retiree, came in to talk to the students about tree care & propagation. He brought in different samples of soil, showing them the difference between sand, clay, limestone, and organic soil. He showed the kids how to plant a seed, showing them how seeds can be many different sizes. He also brought in some month old Flame Tree saplings and showed the students how to transfer trees from a smaller pot to a larger one.

Making Organic CompostHe also showed them how he uses organic waste to create compost at his house in As Matuis.

Tree repotting
After lunch we had a few more energizers (stolen from the clubmates at PIC) and then did a project on watershed pollution. Bree laid out four large sheets of white paper and then drew a non-linear line down the length of the paper, separating what would eventually be land and water.

She broke the students into four groups and had them paint on the ocean and the land, painting in the type of development they would like to see on the land. The students drew houses, agriculture, roads, hotels, ponding basins (!), pastures, and even a horse farm.

Watershed PostersWhen they were finished we put the four posters back together and discussed how the different types of development would affect the marine environment and how one poster would affect the others. The kids were able to identify that the agriculture would result in pesticides and fertilizers running into the water, that the roads would result in erosion and increased runoff, and so on and so on.

Mylene also wrote about Day 1 on her blog, Mylene Rocks.

Monday, June 18, 2007

First Tree Planting of 2007!

Saipan Boy ScoutsOn Saturday, June 16, 2007, Boy Scouts attending the District Boy Scout Camp at Obyan Beach helped plant 115 coconuts along the shores of Obyan Beach.

When people from cold places come to warm places like Saipan, they expect to see palm trees, especially on the beach. This planting will ensure that 10-20 years from now, Obyan Beach will continue to have coconuts. The boys who participated will be able to tell their kids that they helped plant some of the coconuts that they will undoubtably sit under sometime in the future.

The coconuts will also do their part to hold the sand and soil in place. This is a closeup of the roots of a fallen coconut tree:

Coconut rootsCan you see the rocks being held by the roots even after the tree has fallen? While 115 trees will never be able to stop erosion on their own, they will do their part to hold some of the sand and soil in place.

CNMI Forestry is currently propagating native vegetation to be planted at Obyan Beach. Funding for the trees came from a US Fish & Wildlife Service grant obtained by Mariana Islands Nature Alliance. As soon as USDA NRCS comes up with a planting plan, the Beautify CNMI coalition will help coordinate a planting.

Monday, June 04, 2007

RC&D in the News

Marianas Variety, Monday, June 4, 2007

Turtle conservation advocates seek community’s support
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

A NEW group advocating the conservation of turtles will use videos of the threatened species in order to get support from the community, according to one of the advocates.

The group called Marianas Turtle Conservation Program —Meeting the Micronesia Challenge met on Friday at the Aqua Resort Club.

Three speakers discussed the threats faced by green sea turtles. They are Marianas Island Natures Alliance executive director Angelo Villagomez, Coastal Resource Management natural resource planner, Kathy Yuknavage, and Division of Fish and Wildlife turtle protection unit chief, Joe Ruak.

Villagomez in an telephone interview yesterday said those who attended the meeting have agreed to make underwater videos of turtles and the DFW’s conservation activities.

The group’s video project may be funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Villagomez said.

He added that they plan to submit grant applications for their programs.
Department of Land and Natural Resources Secretary Ignacio De la Cruz earlier said that the business sector, particularly hotel owners, should be involved in protecting the turtles.

He said there are certain conditions at hotel beachfronts that adversely affect the turtles. Too bright lights for example scare away the turtles, he said.

Hotel personnel also need to get informed about the turtles’ behavior, Dela Cruz said.
He added that the hawksbill turtle is now an endangered species, while the green sea turtle is a threatened species.
This meeting was hosted by Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council. We passed out Restoration Committee T-shirts along with our new bumper stickers and canvass bags.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Marine Debris

What we do on the land can affect our marine environment. When we litter, a lot of our junk ends up in the ocean. Local diver Harry Blalock has started compiling pictures of trash that he finds at Saipan's local dive sites.

Click HERE to see the pictures.

Do I need to explain why this is a serious problem? I guess so. I'll do it in a later post.