HONOLULU –Clad in their fiery red uniforms, Keaau Elementary students stand at the edge of Kilauea Volcano and lead a chant in honor of the goddess Pele as they prepare to hike down the Big Island crater. Across the Pacific Ocean, students from Peterson Schools in Mexico City rise in their classroom, reciting the same Hawaiian words as they watch steam billow from the crater’s vents and listen to the gusty trade winds through a live video feed.
Dozens of public school students took part in a virtual field trip on Monday to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the latest example of how the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) is using technology to innovate and expand learning opportunities at home and abroad.
Children from Nanakuli Elementary’s Hawaiian Language Immersion program (Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Nanakuli), Hale Kula Elementary and University Laboratory School also experienced the sights and sounds of Kilauea volcano, thanks to Keaau students and staff who wore Google Glass to broadcast their excursion online. The public and more than 50 educators worldwide were able to engage in the field trip, which was in part recorded from the students’-eye view via the "Grab & Go Glassroom" – a wired pack projecting a feed from the students’ Google Glass view into a livestream.
The DOE’s own digital curriculum program, known as Access Learning, has allowed eight pilot schools – including Keaau and Nanakuli – to explore exciting lessons that go beyond textbooks and classroom walls by equipping students with laptops and training teachers on the latest educational tools.
In February, for example, University Laboratory students live streamed their field trip to Honolulu Zoo to the laptops of Keaau Elementary students. Children from both schools partnered to produce videos and other projects about birds they saw at the zoo.
On Monday, Keaau students returned the favor by bringing other students along as they kicked off their volcano adventure by meeting with Matt Patrick, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.
Hawaii and Mexico students quickly peppered Patrick with questions: "How do you know when volcanoes will erupt?" "What do you have to study to become a volcanologist?," and "What’s the speed of lava?"
Students virtually joined their Keaau classmates on a bus ride to the volcano, then performed a chant together before watching their descent into the crater.
During a question-and-answer period, a Peterson Schools student remarked the experience "was awesome" because it allowed him to "see the things that we don’t have here in Mexico."
University Laboratory teacher Marybeth Baldwin said students use Google applications to do homework, peer edit and collaborate on projects.
Her class will use the information from the volcano field trip to learn a new storytelling tool, called Tour Builder, which lets students create interactive maps of places around the world.
"They will take their own information, their pictures, links, and any text that they write, to build a map and – just like Google Earth – drop a pin with all the story they want to tell," Baldwin said.
Click here to view a YouTube recording of today’s virtual field trip.
For more photos of today’s event, visit our Facebook gallery.