Mid-Pacific fifth-graders travel to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park for lesson in land and life - Mid-Pacific Institute

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Mid-Pacific fifth-graders travel to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park for lesson in land and life

Posted on February 16, 2017 by Julie Funasaki Yuen

This January, Mid-Pacific fifth-graders flew to the Big Island to visit Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park after learning about land formations and plate tectonics. The annual fifth grade class trip traces its roots back to the days of Epiphany School before it joined the Mid-Pacific campus, and was brought back this year with the goal of expanding and deepening the students' relationship with the environment, as well as to develop team-building skills, and foster class bonding.


Mid-Pacific fifth-graders waiting at the Honolulu International Airport on their way to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on January 9.

"There is something quite special for students to travel together unlike being in school," said Mid-Pacific Preschool and Elementary School Principal Edna Hussey. "For the teachers, seeing students outside the school environment teaches us even more about each student -- their level of independence, how they problem solve, their friendships and the inter-relationships among students."

While flying to Hawai'i island, the students, teachers Pam Jenkins and Sarah McKay, and chaperones, were treated to a beautiful view of snow-capped Mauna Kea before landing and heading straight to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Their first stop was trekking through the famous Thurston Lava Tube and then hiking down to the Kilauea Iki floor. The group later hiked up to the Jaggar Musuem and were treated to an informative Ranger Talk about the history of Halema'uma'u Crater. The day ended with the students sharing stories about lessons learned, favorite moments, and reading legends about the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and the goddess, Pele.


Mid-Pacific fifth-graders hiking through Thurston Lava Tube at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on January 9.

"My favorite part was seeing the lava and how it just melts rock and it exploded," said Chandler Murray.

Kylie Wood commented, "I like when we went hiking because we got to see the volcanoes. We got to see nature and native birds in their native habitats."


Mid-Pacific fifth-graders, teachers and chaperones at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

The next day the group got up bright and early, ate a hot breakfast at Kilauea Military Camp, and headed out for a hike to the Kilauea Visitor's Center. Before getting there, they stopped to view the steam emerging from the ground at the Steam Vents.

"I learned that there are green crystals formed at the Steam Vents," said Makenzie Dega. "I also learned O'ahu used to be where the Big Island is now, thousands of years ago."

At the Kilauea Visitor's Center, the students, teachers and chaperones met with Park Ranger Noah Gomes who led them on a hike to the edge of the crater, and shared stories about Pele and Kamapua'a. The group then worked hard to remove some of the invasive torch ginger growing in the park, that is making it difficult for native species to thrive. Following lunch and short movie about the volcano, the students hiked along the sulfur banks, and spent time writing journal reflections back at camp. They ended the day with a fun-filled trip to the Bowling Alley.

"My favorite part was going to Pele's crater at night because you could see the lava glow and it's beautiful," said Ava Gurney. "I also loved helping the environment and pulling out invasive ginger."


Mid-Pacific students Ka'u Chang and Taryn Koza remove invasive torch ginger from Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

The students came away from the two-day trip with a profound respect for their island home and some other important life lessons.

"What I learned from the trip was a little bit of responsibility," said Alika Onaga. "My mom and dad weren't there so I had to pick my own food and I had to think what would my parents say to do."

"Going on the Big Island trip was a good experience," said Jackson Ibarra. "Going off-island without my family was something good to have under my belt."

"Traveling with the entire class gave us all an opportunity to strengthen our communication, cooperation, and understanding of each other as a community," said fifth grade teachers Pam Jenkins and Sarah McKay. "They learned so much more about each other, which transfers to the classroom learning environment. Having a shared experience has really brought them together."