Ken Hon, UH Hilo professor of geology, explains the lava flow to a group of school children. (photo by Darcy Bevens, CSAV)

On December 8 more than 300 Pāhoa Elementary students became the first of more than 1,000 students this week who will get a close-up view of a lava flow that forced them to change schools. The field trip turned into a hands-on science lesson as students met with geologists, touched hardened lava and shared their feelings of relocating to a new school.

Students were invited by Hspan aria-label=”Hawaii”>Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense and other county officials and geologists to view parts of Apaʻa Street and the Pāhoa Transfer Station, closed due to lava from the June 27 lava flow.

“Today’s tour gave students the opportunity to visibly see the magnitude of this episode and why they were forced to move,” says Keone Farias, incoming complex area superintendent for Kaʻu-Keaʻau-Pāhoa. “Today’s event helps tie in what they’re learning in the classroom with what’s happening in nature. It also helps them build their academic vocabulary and give context to their writing.”

The students viewed seven different learning stations hosted by scientists and experts from Civil Defense, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV), UH Hilo Department of Geology and Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company.

Field Trip: Puna Lava Flow viewing with Pāhoa Elementary,
a Hawaiʻi Department of Education video.

Each station featured hands-on activities to engage students, including an informational video by UH Hilo geologists Cheryl Gansecki and Ken Hon, demonstrations of the speed of the lava and interactive games.

“This week both the UH Hilo geology department and CSAV have been helping Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense teach elementary school children from Pāhoa about what happened during the recent lava flows, how lava works, and what measures were during the passed flow,” says Hon. “Civil Defense set up stations and UH Hilo ran two of these. About 300 elementary school kids are visiting each day this week and so far it has been a great success.”

Ten UH Hilo geology majors are helping with interpretation during the tours.

The most poignant moment came when students offered a makana (gift) to Pele at the edge of the now-stalled lava flow and talked about their feelings about being at a new school. After offering their gift, students were able to touch the fresh lava and see that although it has since cooled on the surface, it is still sharp and continues to cool underneath.

Read the full story and see more photos from the tour on the UH Hilo Stories website.

—By Susan Enright