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Virtual Field Trip Brings Hawaiʻi Forest Birds Into Classrooms

Students across Hawai‘i are being offered rare access to learn about endangered Hawaiian forest birds. The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC), near Volcano, on Hawai‘i Island is one of two centers operated through a partnership between San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, for the care and perpetuation of numerous critically endangered Hawaiian forest birds.

During 2024, which is the ‘Year of the Forest Birds’ (ka Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele), the focus is on five troubled species.  A way to spread information and to educate keiki is through the production of what is known as a virtual field trip: a collection of 360˚ images, videos, and interviews that allow students to learn about places and species they might not get to see in person.

Dr. Josh Atwood, DOFAW Information and Education Specialist, produced the latest field trip, as well as several others over the past four years.

In late February, armed with a collection of cameras and technology, Atwood worked with the ‘host’ of the KBCC virtual field trip, wildlife care supervisor Lisa Mason. First standing outside the facility, Atwood records Mason as she delivers her introduction. “On your field trip today, you’ll get to see our facility and some of the birds who call this center their home. ʻAlalā, Palila, ʻAkikiki, ʻAkekeʻe, and Kiwikiu,” she says into the camera.

In a press release Josh Atwood said, “By putting a tour into a virtual format, it not only makes it available to a broader number of classrooms, but students can explore it at their own pace. It’s a great way to have something that would be good in-person and enhance it by having it as a virtual field trip experience.”

Once inside the center, taping continues, first in the center’s “keiki corner surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling mural of forest birds, gifted by local artist Kathleen Kam. “Here on this mural, you can see many of the birds that live across our islands, represented in their native habitats,” Mason explains.

According to Atwood, acceptance and utilization of previously produced virtual field trips has been good, and his team is currently working with the Department of Education to align the virtual field trips with curriculum standards.


DLNR Photo

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