Family Science Night

Photos by Carly C. ’19

Family Science Night always delivers an evening of brainy fun and this year’s event continued that tradition as students got to walk through a cell, discover fake fossils and go for glory in the Egg Drop. Dean of Curriculum and FSN creator Laura Trout said this would be the last year for Egg Drop, which had become a staple of the event. “We have two years to come up with a replacement. That should be enough time for us to think of something good.” Trout said. “And in the meantime, the Egg Drop Machine is for sale.” Enjoy the pics!

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The Difference Between Experiencing and Observing

Text by Lauren N. ’19
Photos by Lauren N. ’19 and Lauren Mac. ’19

Stepping off of the plane in Kona was the most refreshing thing that many of us had experienced in a long time. The temperature was in the 70s, palm trees peppered the landscape, and the sun peeked through the clouds as 15 students and three faculty chaperones walked across the tarmac. After a trip to the island’s only Costco and a receipt as long as one might imagine with a house of 10 teenage boys, we found our rooms and fell asleep almost immediately.

As soon as we awoke the next day, we hit the road for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in Hilo, setting off into the rainy forest and hiking through the Thurston Lava Tube to reach our final destination: the Kīlauea iki Crater. The crater, made from lava that dates back to the 1959 flow and that grows deeper by 10 centimeters a year, was a sight to see with its many steam vents, mounds of volcanic rock, and ʻōhiʻa lehua plants dotting the barren landscape.

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Soaking wet, we then continued to travel down the coast to the Makaopuhi and Mau Loa o Mauna crater. Observing the vast and beautiful landscape of the coast and lava flows dating to the 1800s was awe-inspiring. We visited the Jaggar Museum and overlooked the Kīlauea Caldera, which, unfortunately, was closed to hiking due to volcanic activity.

The next day we headed to the beach to snorkel in a small and secluded bay. There, we saw many of the fish that we had studied throughout the year. Afterward, we trekked to the other end of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for our unique live lava hike. The experience was well worth the 10 miles hike. Being so close to the lava allowed us to take stunningly great photos, while at the same time experiencing the scorching heat of molten rock.

We spent our third day in Hilo, starting at the local, open-air farmers market where we bought a variety of local foods, drinks, Hawaiian shirts, and authentic, handmade trinkets. Then we headed to Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park (site of the 1946 April Fools Day tsunami that killed 160 people) and several other places, such as Waipi’o Valley, Wai’luku River State Park, and Rainbow Falls. Finally, we traveled to the Kaumana Caves, where our caving was cut short because of a collapse a few yards past the cave’s entrance. Our day finished with a dinner of the fusion cuisine that locals enjoy.

The green and black sand beaches were our destination on the fourth day. After driving to the southernmost point of the island, we hiked to Mahana Bay, one of Hawaii’s few green sand beaches. Then we had a bit more leisure time at the black sand beach in Punalu’u, where we saw two sea turtles — our first turtles of the trip.

The fifth day was our earliest morning; we woke up at 2:45 to set out for the sunrise over Mauna Kea. At 13,000 feet above sea level, we could see the island of Maui peeking over the clouds as the sun rose. We watched the landscape while surrounded by the dozens of telescopes planted on the peak for private research.

Two Step is one of Kona’s most popular snorkeling spots, known for its colorful coral and abundant marine life. That’s where we started our sixth day, and where we saw many creatures, such as sea turtles, sea urchins, moray eels, moorish idols, yellow tang, and perhaps the most surprising, a white-tipped reef shark. We had the afternoon to ourselves, before leaving for our night snorkel with manta rays. The rays, which can grow to seven feet in width, glided right over divers’ heads, and the snorkelers watched in awe from the water’s surface.

On our next to last day, we returned to our first snorkeling spot, where we collected data on the amount of fish of certain species in the bay and the quality of the coral. Afterward, we spent the afternoon at Kekaha Kai Beach, where we played football, relaxed in the sun, hiked over lava rocks on the beach, and swam with more sea turtles. We then cleaned ourselves up and headed to Royal Kona Resort luau, where we ate traditional food and learned about Hawaiian history and culture. We all looked especially festive sporting our leis and Hawaiian shirts (and for some of the boys, khaki short shorts).

All too soon, our last day arrived. We spent it touring coffee plantations, touring the town of Kailua-Kona and eating dinner at a local taqueria.

Everything we did in Hawaii felt authentic, the difference between experiencing and observing Hawaiian culture firsthand. Overall, this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, if given the chance, every one of us would go back and do it again.

Engineering Meets Liberal Arts

Olivia B. and her partner, Siena C., sat down with their computer, LEGO Robotics kit, a mission to build the “Smart Spinner” and, for Olivia, a question.

“Do we exactly know what this is going to do?” she asked.

“No,” Siena replied flatly. She sat at the screen, and of the pair was clearly more at home with the programming aspect than the LEGO building part.

“Here,” Siena said, passing the box of LEGOs to Olivia as she brought the schematic up on the screen. “You’ve got the magic touch. Why don’t you handle this part?”

It was an ordinary afternoon in Tammy Calhoun’s fourth grade class and Siena, whether deliberately or not, was being coy about her own building skills. The previous section had just finished up making interactive games and animations by writing code using an MIT program called Scratch, while their peers in class at this moment were delving deep into what had become comfortable territory: assembling the physical parts and digital instructions to make inanimate LEGOs come to life.

“When I first introduced LEGO Robotics, everything was new to the kids and everything was more difficult,” said Head of Lower School Caroline Badri. “Starting with just logging in, for example. Then the directions kids followed for building the robots weren’t nearly as elegant, and the program itself has become much more refined and user friendly. When you combine that with just how tech-savvy kids are today versus 10 years ago, it’s really impressive what they manage to do.”

And Badri was quick to point out that while there was no question as to whether or how the students would use programming knowledge in their later lives, the children were learning other, equally important lessons too.

“When you see the kids work as a team, they have to figure out how to negotiate and work with one another and collaborate to diagnose and solve the problem when something goes wrong.”

Calhoun picked up the thought.

“Many people consider coding akin to learning a language and I think that’s absolutely right,” she said. “As a teacher, you see kids working through problems on their own and my job is often to step back and just plant a seed of a possible solution, to be almost indirect when helping, because the kids can — and want to — figure it out on their own.

“Obviously what they’re doing ties in perfectly with rise of STEM and the future demand for skills like these,” Calhoun continued. However, what makes LEGO Robotics and writing programs in Scratch so much more engaging for teacher and student alike is their ability to engage the students’ creative side. So while the skills they’re learning are certainly practical, they in no way feel vocational; it’s more like engineering-meets-liberal arts.

“It can change a child’s whole mindset,” said Badri.