Mike Gabbard and Tulsi Gabbard’s nonprofit organization, Healthy Hawaii Coalition (HHC), has been presenting its popular elementary school program, The Hawaii Watershed Experience, for more than 10 years in elementary schools across the state. Close to 6,000 students on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Kauai and Molokai have taken part in the program.
HHC, co-founded by the father-daughter duo, began offering its original curriculum — that teaches second- and third-graders about watersheds, the Hawaiian concept of ahupua‘a, preventing water pollution and encouraging land and water stewardship — in 2002.
Participating classes are treated to a humorous skit starring Oily Al (who looks suspiciously like Mike Gabbard himself, although disguised quite well) and WaterWoman (originally played by Tulsi Gabbard) and their confrontations about pollution in their watershed. The keiki also participate in hands-on activities on a special field trip to a beach park or other watershed area. They enjoy learning about water testing, erosion, non-point source pollution and cleaning up rubbish to prevent it from polluting the fishponds or ocean.
Some 80 second-graders from Hilo Union Elementary School got to enjoy the experience Nov. 19, with the play in the school library followed by a field trip at Coconut Island.
HHC’s The Hawaii Watershed Experience is completely free — including bus trips, materials and take-home WaterWoman activity books — thanks to partial funding by the Polluted Runoff Control Program (PRC), Clean Water Branch of the Department of Health.