Students Convene in China for Global Natural History Day

August 9, 2016

Submitted by Attendee Andrew Winnicki ’17

On July 27, 2016, the 18 Global Natural History Day (GNHD) competitors from Hawai‘i returned to O‘ahu after a weeklong trip to Shanghai, China. Among the 18 young scholars from Hawai'i were two Punahou students and four students from the Clarence T.C. Ching PUEO Program.

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GNHD is a relatively young program that encourages students to formulate a project, conduct research and create a presentation about a topic within the field of natural history. Natural history encompasses the study of animals, plants and fungi in their natural environment, and living in Hawai‘i, there was no shortage of nature to inspire students' projects.

The students started their research even before the school year ended, since the preliminary qualifying round was on May 14 at Wo International Center. Many students presented and competed, but in the end, only five scholarships were awarded to teams. The qualifying students were then advised to revise their projects and bolster them with primary sources such as interviews with professors from the University of Hawai‘i ­– Mānoa or by visiting the areas they were researching.

By the time the Global Finals came around, a couple more teams had been added to the representation of Hawai‘i, including a team from Kaua‘i and two teams from Punahou's PUEO Program. The students arrived in Shanghai, China, and went straight to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum to set up their projects, which were to be presented the following day.

Students from all around the world competed in the Global Finals, including international division competitors from Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, and domestic division competitors from China. The exhibition hall was quickly filled with comprehensive projects stunningly displayed with 3-D models and tri-fold boards, on topics such as marine pollution, fig and wasp relationships, mockingbird behavior, and even the Worldwide Voyage of the Hōkūle‘a.

After presenting their projects, the students were toured around the sprawl of Shanghai by the GNHD coordinators, visiting locations such as the Water Town (Zhujiajiao), the Bund (Waitan), museums such as the China Art Museum, and of course dining in many locations serving classic Shanghai dishes in a traditional Chinese style. During the social event and the awards ceremony, Hawai‘i's students took the opportunity to interact with students from countries they had never before visited by speaking with them and exchanging gifts.

Students bonded closely and, through activities they arranged together, completely filled their schedules from morning until late at night. Through their excursions, strolls through streets filled with energetic vendors and deals made with experienced kiosk owners, they gained perspective on what was considered typical in Shanghai. Students enjoyed getting to know the city and their newfound international friends on a deeper level.

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