Our Islands, Our Future

Teachers seek new, innovative ways to stir curiosity in their students’ young minds. Soon, 5th-grade teacher Wendy Wells and 4th-grade teacher Carolyn Bush will have webcam/video access to a telescope on the Maui Research and Technology property via the Aloha Explorations Outreach Project. “We plan on using the telescope with our students for observation of the moon, sun and planets,” the teachers said. “We feel it will help promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and space explorations … It will be motivational for students as we know they will have a high interest and curiosity.”

The explorations project is a collaboration of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy and Maui Economic Development Board. The project will allow students on Maui to access the telescope via the Internet. The telescope gives K-12 teachers and college instructors real-time video-imagery of the moon and other celestial objects. Any teacher trained to use the telescope webcam may reserve a time slot, and then – while viewing the moon, for example, will have the ability to move the telescope at will to any desired location. Physical scientist Stacie Williams, who oversees community outreach activities for the Air Force Research Laboratory on Maui, said the telescope project has been in the works for two years now. Selected schools in Georgia and on Maui such as Kamalii Elementary where Bush and Wells teach will be the first to use the telescope. By fall 2014, the project hopes to offer telescope time to others on Maui as well as classrooms in Ohio and Oregon.

“I hope this telescope will get students engaged and think about what they can do in space and in science,” Williams said. “The way you connect students with science is to connect them with real world examples … This gives them a shot at being a real scientist and that’s exciting.” Bush said her students are excited about the opportunity. “Parents who’ve also heard about it are interested and glad for the opportunity for it to be used at our school,” she said.