Something About Lava

Kilauea volcano, on the island of Hawaii, will mark 30 continuous years of eruption next month. It has been a relatively gentle eruption that has made it easy to study in relative safety. This week, I was able to join a group and hike out to where the lava flows into the ocean. The hike, over bumpy frozen lava, was 2½ miles (4 km) and took about 2 hours each way; we stayed out at the point where the lava flowed into the ocean for about an hour before hiking back.

It was incredible! We were able to get right up to the lava, but it was hot! After just a few seconds, we had to back away a a few feet. And you have to poke a stick in it! Best of all was watching the lava flow into the ocean. Sometimes, pieces of lava fall into the ocean and you watch them float out to sea while they are still burning.

There is something about lava that reaches deep inside. It feels like a link to the creation of the world; a reminder that change is a constant.

This link is to a video I created of the experience. On a side note, this video (my first) is also my final ‘exam’ for the Photoshop class I am taking at the University of Hawaii Windward campus.

At Science Camps of America this June, we hope a hike to see the lava will be a part of Science Camp; however, we won’t know if we will be able to do so until it is time for camp, as conditions are constantly changing.

It was an amazing experience – if you ever are on the Big Island and have the chance, don’t miss it!

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The trail is now a bit harder to follow.

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Pahoehoe lava ‘toe’

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Watching the island grow.

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Yes, I pretty much could not stop smiling!

Science Studies at Science Camps of America

Only the general outlines of the curriculum have been established to date. SCA’s Education Committee will ultimately be responsible for developing the actual curriculum, but I thought it would be helpful to paint the broad brushstrokes.

You have to start with a question: What is it we are trying to achieve? In short, it is to provide young people with an understanding of how our planet works so that they have that solid scientific foundation on which to base their actions and decisions throughout their lives.

So we start with the sciences that describe how our planet works: geology, oceanography, meteorology, ecology and astronomy.  Let’s take a look at what each of these topics might include.

Geology. Starting with geology provides students with the basics of planetary science and includes topics such as planetary formation, plate tectonics, volcanology, and the rock cycle (Wiki link).

Oceanography and Meteorology. I put these two together because they are so intricately linked through the water cycle.  We can study the structure of our planet’s oceans, how the ocean and atmosphere distribute heat and regulate our atmosphere, and the biological interaction of marine species and its importance to our planet’s habitability.  Studies in this area will provide a good basis for the understanding of climate (see ecology).

Astronomy.  The study of astronomy will give the students an understanding of how the universe was started, how galaxies and solar systems, including ours, are created, and what we can learn about Earth by studying other planets.

Ecology. Ecology is the study of the relationships of living creatures to each other and to their environment.  Study topics include biological organization, habitat, biodiversity, and ecosystems.  Finally, students will undertake the study of climate, climate change, the threats to our environment, and possible solutions including alternate energy research.

This is a lot of science! Students will likely need to attend multiple sessions, perhaps over several summers, to complete the study of everything SCA has to offer. Students will not need to attend every session, as each session will be designed to be a complete learning ‘unit’ in itself, as well as fit into the larger picture.  It is a lot to pack into a short period of time, but it can be done, especiallythrough the use of non-traditional approaches that include inter-disciplinary courses, hands-on experiential learning, and Web 2.0 technologies.

Daily Routine. If you know one thing about me, then you know that camp will not be all work and no play!  Generally, the plan is for six hours of educational activity each day, with half of that on a field trip, and the other half for classroom, field, or laboratory work.  Evening programs may be educational or cultural (but light – think lying out watching the stars or learning to play ukulele), or just for fun (movies, games).  Optional activities for other times will include rope courses, arts and crafts, sports, and hiking.

Arts. SCA will encourage campers to use the arts as an expression of their feelings about camp and about what they are learning.  Creative writing, photography, drawing, cooking, and music will all be used to help students express themselves in sharing their experiences with friends and family.