Maui News

Moloka‘i Students Learn History and STEM at Pearl Harbor

March 8, 2018, 12:36 PM HST
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Students stand in front of B-25B Mitchell Bomber. Photo credit: Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

A group of students from Molokaʻi participated in an action packed itinerary at historic World War II sites as part of a three-day field trip focused on history and STEM education.

The group of 22 fifth and sixth graders from Maunaloa and Kilohana elementary schools visited the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, USS Bowfin, USS Missouri, and USS Arizona Memorial.

The trip was made possible with a majority of funding provided by Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, in partnership with the USS Missouri Memorial Association.

“The Discover Pearl Harbor program is designed to bring history to life and to help students gain a better understanding of the science of flight,” said Shauna Tonkin, Director of Education, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

Students examine B-17E Flying Fortress Swamp Ghost. Photo credit: Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

“The Museum launched the program in 2016, and since then, we’ve hosted more than 250 students, many from remote areas and Title 1 schools throughout Hawaiʻi. The highly interactive curriculum combines the elements of science, technology, engineering and math in a format that keeps students engaged. Also, by incorporating guided tours to our neighboring Pearl Harbor historic sites, they not only learn about the history of World War II, but they can see first hand the role that science and technology played during one of America’s most prolific periods of war,” said Tonkin.


“Coming from a very rural town and island, this program is valuable in many different ways,” said 5th and 6th grade teacher Wendy Espaniola from Maunaloa Elementary School. “It not only provides an opportunity to learn the wonders of history and science hands-on, but it also removes them from their comfort zone. While we stress academics, this is also a great opportunity for them to work on their social skills outside of a familiar setting. There is more attentiveness, engagement, and participation across the board.”


“We are learning about what happened and why America got involved in the war, but we’re actually here, not just looking at pictures,” said Maunaloa Elementary School 6th grade student, Rusty Morris. “We also learned about what makes planes fly, like the science, how the headwind makes a difference and how one change in the flaps and wings of a plane can change how well it flies.”

Students up close with B-17E Flying Fortress Swamp Ghost. Photo credit: Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

Fellow Maunaloa Elementary School 5th grader Pikake Lee said, “They told us about history and how everyone came together after the (Pearl Harbor) attack. Like how women got involved and helped build the planes and deliver them. I learned how a plane was built, in the factories. They also taught us group things like trusting your leader, and communicating so everyone understands instructions.”

Some of the aviation-related STEM activities students participated in at Pacific Aviation Museum included:

  • Table-top experiments where students were introduced to the two most important concepts in the science of aviation – Newton’s Third Law of Motion and Bernoulli’s Principle;
  • Seeing the effects that airflow have on a wing, and how different velocities of airstream can change a wing’s reaction to their controller inputs. A portable wind tunnel was used to allow students to manipulate an airfoil inside a working wind tunnel via remote control;
  • Conducting a crash investigation of the famous B-17 Swamp Ghost and climbing into the cockpit of the iconic C-47 Gooney Bird; and
  • Climbing the historic aerological tower to see how Ford Island and Pearl Harbor have changed throughout history.

The program concluded with a “Discover Pearl Harbor Closing Ceremony” where Tonkin highlighted some of the many activities students enjoyed during their three-day stay. “You’ve explored the historic significance of Pearl Harbor; shot a rivet; flew the P-40; broke a top secret code; landed on an aircraft carrier; completed an Amazing Race; and maybe, just maybe, began to imagine yourself in the command of an aircraft someday.”

Students were encouraged to share their goals with teachers and museum staff members who can help them find the resources needed to support their dream.

Pacific Aviation Museum’s education programs reached nearly 40,000 students in 2016. In addition to Discover Pearl Harbor, the Museum also offers Barnstorming Tours; Flight School; Scouting Programs; hosted field trips to its historic hangars; and an Explorers Club, a multi-day program that teaches aeronautics, engineering, robotics, rocketry, and more, using the Museum’s historic hangars as a backdrop for real-life learning.

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to develop and maintain an internationally recognized aviation museum on Historic Ford Island that educates young and old alike, honors aviators and their support personnel who defended freedom in The Pacific Region, and to preserve Pacific aviation history.

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