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Ukalialiʻi and Hōkūloa are the Hawaiian words for Mercury and Venus and just two of many ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) terms related to astronomy that keiki on Hawaiʻi Island are busy learning. ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, an educational outreach organization at University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo has co-sponsored the annual Waimea Solar System Walk, where children learn about the universe.

Through April 15, participants can take a stroll in Waimea town and scan QR codes on decals that link to informational videos about planets. This year, people can watch videos in English or Hawaiian—an option that aligns with ʻImiloa’s mission of merging science and Hawaiian culture.

Venus decal
Information on the walk is featured in English and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi

“ʻImiloa is excited to support this year’s Solar System Walk—especially with the dual language options available for those who want to study the solar system ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi—through the Hawaiian language.” said Executive Director Kaʻiu Kimura. “We mahalo the Maunakea Observatories for creating this opportunity for our local Waimea ʻohana and look forward to seeing keiki explore the universe in ways that relate to them and their community.”

Maunakea Observatories organized the free month-long event and adjusted it so ʻohana can go on self-guided tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some videos on the walk’s route feature UH Institute for Astronomy (IfA) faculty, including IfA Maui Outreach Astronomer J.D. Armstrong and IfA Hilo Education Specialist Carolyn Kaichi, who breaks down facts about Mercury or Ukalialiʻi, the closest planet to the Sun. “Our hope is to ignite or stimulate interest in space science for all age groups on Hawaiʻi Island,” Kaichi said.

The socially distanced popup event launched on March 15 in Waimea, but the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope (CFHT) has materials available online for anyone interested in hosting a solar walk.

“Our Maunakea Observatories staff continue to find new ways throughout the pandemic to meet students’ need for fun, engaging activities that we normally get to present in-person,” said CFHT Outreach Manager Mary Beth Laychak, who organized the event.

Visit the CFHT website for more information.

Parent and keki at a decal
Kids scan decals at the socially-distanced event to access interactive videos about each planet
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