Fifty-two Hilo-area youth had a memorable opportunity to complement their six-week experience in the ‘Ike Kai program at Richardson Ocean Park with an all-expense-paid expedition to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on July 11.
Transportation, admission and customized educational programming were funded through the Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a Endowment at ‘Imiloa, giving the participants a mauka immersion to contrast with the makai setting of the STEM-focused ocean awareness program, sponsored by the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
Participants, who ranged in age from 5-13, eagerly jumped off the bus at ‘Imiloa with all their gear packed mariner-style in 3-gallon buckets. They were immediately welcomed with a series of “solar stretches” in the Kamalani Garden before continuing indoors to guided activities throughout the center’s exhibit hall.
Tours included exploring the water cycle, Poliahu and snow on Maunakea; tracing weather patterns and hurricanes on “Science on a Sphere”; and learning about the challenges of packing water for a long-distance sail on Hokule‘a.
Later, in ‘Imiloa’s CYBER-Canoe, they identified constellations in the night sky useful in oceanic navigation, then came back down to earth to view projections of geological changes in island land mass, predicting how the shoreline of Maui will come to resemble the barrier reefs of Tahiti and eventually the atoll of Rangiroa.
A presentation about black holes in ‘Imiloa’s planetarium rounded out the program before the campers broke for lunch and free time to explore the center on their own.
Each of the guided activities was designed to build on components of ‘Ike Kai, a 14-year old summer program funded by Hawaii County that offers youngsters an opportunity to combine daily sessions of morning work, such as restoring tide pools, monitoring turtle cleaning stations, learning ocean safety and marine science, and afternoon play, such as swimming, snorkeling, outrigger paddling, etc. at the ocean.
At the heart of this ocean awareness program is time spent learning to sail and maintain Keaukaha’s traditional sailing canoe, Kiakahi, under the direction of its captain and ‘Ike Kai director, Kalani Kahalioumi.
“The majority of our kids live and go to school next to the ocean in Keaukaha, so it was great to be able to expose them to ‘Imiloa’s impressive exhibits on the Big Island’s contrasting climate zones, the sky above and universe beyond,” Kahalioumi said. “We’re grateful to the Pi‘ianai‘a family for making this day possible and hope to continue collaborating with ‘Imiloa on culture-based STEM enrichment programming.”