Imiloa astronomy center’s weeklong wayfinding camp inspires young minds

  • Keiki build and race their own canoes Tuesday at Imiloa Astronomy Center's wayfinding camp, “Where the Sky Meets the Sea."
  • Kaina Warholoski, 6, races his canoe Tuesday during Imiloa Astronomy Center’s wayfinding camp. (STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald)

  • Searching for the lost "Heart of Tefiti," keiki learn about compasses and navigation Tuesday as part of Imiloa Astronomy Center's weeklong wayfinding camp, “Where the Sky Meets the Sea."
  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald Keiki learn to make cordage Tuesday during ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s wayfinding camp.

HILO — Excited cheers echoed throughout the parking lot about lunchtime Tuesday at Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.

Warm and bright outside, a small group of children had seemingly succeeded in using their newfound navigational skills to follow clues to the “Heart of Te Fiti” hidden in the garden out front.


The exercise was included in a lesson where keiki learned how to use a compass to navigate as part of the astronomy center’s weeklong wayfinding camp, “Where the Sky Meets the Sea.”

Elsewhere on the Imiloa campus, children learned about density and what makes waa, or canoes, float before building and racing their own.

“Based off of the knowledge they learned here, they have to make sure their canoe can float, is well-balanced and has a sail that can be pushed,” camp director and Imiloa education associate Kaila Olson said.

When asked if they were having a good time, a small group testing the density of various materials in water responded with a loud and enthusiastic, “Yeah!”

Another group learned about how seeds dispersed and navigated to Hawaii — either by wind, water or by the wings of birds.

A fourth group studied cordage making using coconut, hau and the aerial roots of the hala tree.

Olson said a wayfinding camp has been offered previously, but the curriculum this year is new.

In the past, “a lot of it was just learning the star lines, which they do in this class still, but we started to incorporate more of the culture aspect of it.”

This week, Olson said attendees also will learn how to identify and capture fish, weigh and measure them using Hawaii fishing regulations, and how to prepare fish if they were on a voyage, as well as how to observe wind and ocean currents.

The wayfinding camp is much like an affirmation, she said.

“You teach them about things, and they’re more likely to become that when they get older,” said Olson.

The camp also is important “just to inspire them to be navigators and to let them know that our people did navigate and did voyage and to also emphasize the importance of stars, and how our people knew every aspect of our sky and our ocean and even down to our plants and our birds, and how they all became tools for navigating.”

Micah Geib, 6, said that he likes “that we get to learn about wayfinding.”

His favorite part of the camp was racing the canoes they made and learning about how seeds can travel.

Sadie Eckersley, 8, said camp “is really fun. I like having fun activities. I like it when a lot of people do challenging things … and it’s really fun doing new things I’ve never done before and learning new things.”

She’s experienced a lot since camp started Monday, but enjoyed learning how to use a compass “and how to find your way,” as well as about the canoes.

Caleb Perez, 7, said he likes making new friends at camp.


He had just completed his canoe race on Tuesday and said his boat did “kind of good,” but learning how to use a compass was his favorite part of the camp experience.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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