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Mural depicting monk seals set to tour the isles

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KAILUA-KONA » Five enthusiastic students at Kaha­kai Elementary School stood in front of a large mural where hand-painted pictures of monk seals shined on a 4-by-8-foot canvas behind them.

The young scholars spent more than two months crafting the drawings of the endangered species and joyfully expressed their knowledge and pride of the animal and a mural that has taken on a life of its own, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

"We made the mural because we wanted to try to save the Hawaiian species of the monk seals," said Andrey Sawin­ski, a fourth-grader, on May 4. "They are a part of our culture."

Classmate Taylor Bear added that the monk seal is "a majestic animal."

The mural portrays painted blocks with pictures of monk seals inside them. The drawings are supported by a bright, ocean-blue background, and each seal is different with its own set of eyes that fourth-grader Brooke Aragon described as "windows to their soul."

There’s also a small mirror within the mural that Brooke explained is to show the viewer that "you’re the missing piece."

The mural recently left the school to go to the Moku­pa­papa Discovery Center in Hilo. When the Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Visitor Center is completed, the artwork will travel there. Plans are also in the works for the piece to go to Maui and Oahu.

The idea came after a volunteer from the West Hawaii Marine Mammal Response Network gave a presentation on the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal to Tracy Foyle’s fourth-grade class.

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