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Hilo's Imiloa Astronomy Center

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s public astronomy center has received a $7,200 grant from the Japan Foundation for Promotion of Astronomy to give more Hawaiʻi Island schoolchildren the chance to participate in educational experiences at the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, an outreach center of UH Hilo. The funding, awarded through Subaru Telescope, will be used for ʻImiloa’s school field trip program to help support round-trip transportation costs for schools outside Hilo.

“We feel a very special responsibility to ensure broad access to our programming for local students and schools here on Hawaiʻi Island,” says Kaʻiu Kimura, executive director of the center. “This generous grant from the Japan Foundation for Promotion of Astronomy will be of tremendous assistance in meeting our goal of continuing to subsidize roundtrip bus transportation for all eligible Hawaiʻi Island classes. We are very grateful to the JFPA and Subaru Telescope for this vote of confidence in our programming.”

ʻImiloa’s field trips a hit with students

ʻImiloa’s signature field trips are customized in consultation with the organizing teacher to meet the needs of the grade level and include content that directly supported the curriculum unit which the students were studying. Each class is offered a choice of shows in ʻImiloa’s fulldome 3-D digital planetarium, along with hands-on experiences in its interactive exhibit hall and native gardens. At the end of the two-hour field trip, students receive curriculum worksheets to take back and complete in class.

Typical of many comments is one from a Hilo-area teacher who organized a field trip for her class in 2015: “Many of our students receive free/reduced lunch and finances are a struggle. So, for them to go to ʻImiloa is such a luxury!” Another writes, “It is very difficult nowadays to get field trips approved and they must be highly linked to academic standards, so we are thankful that we can add ʻImiloa to our list.”

Last school year, ʻImiloa hosted a total of 11,290 students and teachers and chaperones on 266 different curriculum-related field trips, the equivalent of more than one on-site field trip each weekday ʻImiloa was open. The majority of the visiting groups—53 percent—were elementary school students, with 16 percent from intermediate school and 21 percent from high school. Slightly over half of all student visitors came from schools on Hawaiʻi Island, with the remainder traveling to Hilo from Oʻahu, the neighbor islands, the U.S. mainland and overseas.

More on the Japan Foundation for Promotion of Astronomy

Over the past 15 years, the Japan Foundation for Promotion of Astronomy through Subaru Telescope has made more than $132,000 in grants to UH Hilo to support initiatives that foster education about astronomy in the local community. These have included the creation of exhibits and planetarium shows at ʻImiloa, the construction of a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe, and scholarships for students participating in Camp ʻIMI-Possible.

—By Susan Enright

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