Friday, May 7, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Students take part in a public television program about
navigation and exploration. Astronauts and sailors from
traditional voyaging canoes have spoken to the youngsters.

Isle kids
do star turn
on national show

Liliuokalani sixth-graders
talk Pacific exploration in a
stint on live television

By Susan Kreifels


The Greeks called the constellation Scorpius. The native Hawaiians named it Maui's Fishhook.

But Woong Hue, a sixth-grader at Liliuokalani Elementary School in Kaimuki, made up his own legend. In his universe, the star formation would be called "Ukulele" in honor of Kaipo, a great Hawaiian strummer who died saving a young girl in a storm.

Star-naming was part of yesterday's live taping of "KidScience on the Move -- The Explorers," a three part series produced by Hawaii Public Television and the Department of Education.

The show is focusing on two great eras of exploration -- outer space by the astronauts and Oceania by ancient Polynesian star navigators.

Fourteen Liliuokalani sixth-graders became stars themselves, shown on public TV stations around the nation to more than a million students who can ask live questions via Internet or phone.

Yesterday kids learned how the ancient navigators colonized every inhabitable island of the Pacific Ocean, guided by the stars and other signs of nature rather than navigational equipment. Brad Cooper, a navigator aboard the traditional voyaging canoe Hawai'iloa and a teacher at Kamehameha Schools, spoke about the challenges of the seas.

The Liliuokalani students have put a lot of thought into exploration. For example, what would they pack into a 48-quart cooler to last them for a 30-day sail?

Girls were heavier on clothes, vitamins and plastic bags for garbage. The boys wanted knives and emergency location beacons. "And some deodorant because I wouldn't want to smell," said student Jack Wong.

Last week astronaut Leroy Chiao flew from Houston to talk about his space walks. Next Thursday Tom Gates with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be at the station to discuss the Mars mission.

The sixth-graders were calm as producers gave them countdowns and show hostess Patty Miller, Department of Education distance-learning science teacher, praised them.

Carter Davis took digital photos of the show, which included his son Alex. He thinks such experiences are valuable for students because they learn to "think outside the box. It broadens their horizons."

Their teacher, Ann Marie Ho, is pleased that Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson and the man who taught him the ancient skills, Mau Piailug, are her students' heroes rather than just "sports guys."

Several students still said they would choose to explore space over the ocean, because "there's more to explore. It's bigger," said Grant Tomihara.

Student Ashley Kopp decided traditional sailing would be too cold for her.

Wong sees stars in his future _ but the kind on actors' dressing-room doors. "One day," Wong said, "Steven Spielberg will be looking for me."

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