Journey Through the Universe Program Returns

February 27, 2018, 10:50 AM HST
* Updated February 27, 10:53 AM
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Hawai‘i Island’s leading astronomy education and outreach program, Journey Through the Universe (“Journey”) is returning for its 14th year with a week of educational programming from Friday, March 2 to Friday, March, 9, 2018.

Students learn how telescope mirrors are cleaned during a classroom presentation.

The Journey program promotes science education across east and north Hawai‘i Island school districts and inspires students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields by developing literacy in science. Journey endeavors to foster curiosity and wonder about our Universe, and the cutting-edge research and technology that is allowing us to understand our place in the cosmos like never before.

Journey Through the Universe, originally developed by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), has expanded each year since its introduction in Hawai‘i by the staff of the Gemini Observatory. Last year alone, the Journey program reached over 8,800 students in 300 classrooms, and more than 80 astronomy educators shared their passion for science with students.

The Journey team hosts a number of immersive educational programs throughout the week. Astronomy educators from across the Big Island perform interactive workshops during classroom visits, provide teacher trainings, and host career panels and public astronomy events. Visiting educators from NASA New Horizon’s mission to Pluto are bringing “Pluto Palooza” to Hawai‘i for the first time. The program engages audiences with findings about Pluto and a look forward to the future of the mission to the distant world.

The week formally begins with an Astronomy Educator’s Reception, featuring Hilo-Waiākea/Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa (KKP) Complex Area Superintendent Keone Farias, Journey alumnus Devin Chu, and Gemini Observatory director Dr. Laura Ferrarese. The event is hosted by the Hawai‘i Island and Japanese Chambers of Commerce, which are long-time program partners. Journey also includes an “ambassador” program, which aids astronomy educators in the week’s events. Thirty Journey ambassadors are expected to assist the dozens of science educators this year as they bring the Universe into the local classrooms.


“Our teachers and staff are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Journey program,” said Keone Farias, “Providing our students with access to the unique resources and opportunities of the Journey program provides a stellar platform for implementation of the critically important Next Generation Science Standards by bringing astronomy into our classrooms,” continued Farias. “We are proud to be growing the program each year and inspiring more students and teachers to reach for the stars.”



Journey Through the Universe provides classroom visits and teacher trainings throughout the year. Gemini’s StarLab Portable Planetarium travels to kindergarten and first grade students in local schools, offering students a fun way to engage with our Solar System and constellations, and helping teachers incorporate the planetarium into the classroom. In addition, Gemini hosts FamilyASTRO trainings to teach practical applications of classroom astronomy to families, youth groups, after-school programs, and other organizations. Every other year, NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) leads a Lunar and Meteorite Sample Certification Workshop, in which teachers become certified to borrow samples from the Apollo missions, and to use NASA online tools to build appreciation for science among their students. Journey also offers teacher tours of the observatories on Maunakea.

Career panels featuring local observatory professionals are an important aspect of the Journey program. The panels allow students to discover the wide range of educational possibilities and career opportunities available at observatories and within the field. According to John Vierra, Gemini’s Safety Coordinator and career panel participant, the panels are planned to inspire: “This is an opportunity to make contact with kids at an earlier age, exposing them to the opportunities that exist in their local community, and encouraging them to aim high. It inspires them to think outside the box about what they want to accomplish later in life.”


Journey Through the Universe is instrumental in introducing astronomy educators and K-12 teachers to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). NGSS is working to implement common teaching standards across the U.S. that align with international benchmarks, and develop greater student interest in science. Journey provides workshop sessions for educators to learn about astronomy and applications of NGSS in their classrooms that are supplemented by other Journey events and interactive classroom visits.

“Journey Through the Universe would not succeed without the help of our community partners and sponsors, including the Department of Education, Hawai‘i Island business community, Maunakea Observatories, and NASA, among many others,” said Janice Harvey, Journey Through the Universe program coordinator. “Their continued support is a demonstration of their commitment to our community and the future of science education for Hawai‘i students.”

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