Hometown Heroes: Monk seal hospital launches school program

  • The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital, Ke Kai Ola, located in Kailua-Kona, is dedicated to the conservation for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. (Sheila Latta/The Marine Mammal Center/NOAA permit #18786-03)

  • Participants have the option to register for any or all of the six Seal Stories sessions by visiting The Marine Mammal Center’s website at www.MarineMammalCenter.org/education/educators/seal-stories. There is no cost to participate in the program, but teachers must register in advance to get the Zoom link for each session through the Center’s website. (Elena Graham/The Marine Mammal Center/NOAA permit #18786-03)

  • Mele, an endangered Hawaiian monk seal. (Lauren Van Heukelem/The Marine Mammal Center/NOAA Permit #18786-03)

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Marine Mammal Center, the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, is launching a new live, virtual program for upper elementary teachers and their students across Hawaii.

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The program, Seal Stories, encourages students to find solutions to the state’s most challenging conservation threats. The six-session program fills a critical void in conservation education in the state and allows teachers and students to connect with Center experts on a full set of environmental challenges.

“The global pandemic has created many obstacles to fill a critical gap in in-person programs and lessons. Through Seal Stories, we are excited to provide an exciting live, virtual learning opportunity for upper elementary youth throughout Hawaii State,” said Wendy Marks, School and Youth Programs Manager for Hawaii. “By engaging students around their passion for ocean conservation, we hope to build a community of leaders to tackle some of today’s most pressing local environmental challenges.”

The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital, Ke Kai Ola, located in Kailua-Kona, is dedicated to the conservation for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. The center’s team of staff and volunteers has rehabilitated more than 33 monk seals and reaches thousands of people annually through its community and education programs.

The center’s educators crafted Seal Stories to feature uplifting messages of hope and empowerment on current environmental issues. Each virtual session includes Hawaiian monk seal patient stories, guest panelists and follow-up classroom activities. Sessions feature stories of individual Hawaiian monk sea patients, as well as offering solutions for the threats facing marine mammals and our ocean, such as climate change, ocean trash, diseases, and impacts of human interaction.

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The program launches 9:30 a.m. March 30, and runs weekly through May 4. Participants have the option to register for any or all of the six sessions. There is no cost to participate in the program, but teachers must register in advance to get the Zoom link for each session through the center’s website at www.MarineMammalCenter.org/education/educators/seal-stories.

Know a Hometown Hero that should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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