Hundreds of students, parents and educators from across the state celebrated Astronaut Lacy Veach Day of Discovery on October 26 at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama’s Ka‘iwakīloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center.
The event honored the legacy of astronaut Charles Lacy Veach, who grew up in Honolulu and attended Punahou School. He was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and flew two NASA space shuttle missions – his love for exploration in space connected home as he would often compare the Columbia space shuttle mission to the wayfinding explorations of Native Hawaiians.
Master navigator Nainoa Thompson opened the 18th edition of the event with an assembly at the Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani Performing Arts Center and spoke about Veach’s contributions in his work at NASA and how he helped inspire traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a’s worldwide voyage.
“He was the one that planted the seeds for the worldwide voyage,” said Thompson. “Lacy shifted voyaging from just finding islands to making us understand that we have one island that all humanity lives on and it’s called Earth, and it needs to be protected.”
Astronaut Joseph Acaba added thoughts about NASA's upcoming missions and his personal experiences as an educator and as a NASA flight engineer.
“It’s amazing to see how many students are here with their parents and teachers,” said Acaba. “You are our future and I’m very proud of you for being here today.”
The event included students in grades three through 12 from across Hawaiʻi looking to explore their love of science with experts and practitioners, while also engaging in hands-on activities. Students attended different science workshops held in Konia classrooms and the Midkiff Learning Center.
Chaminade University Research Lab Manager Lori Shimoda provided microscopes for students to use and explained how to prepare and analyze samples. Some students learned how to build a pinwheel after exploring the elements and different forms of galaxies with Larry Wiss from the NASA Solar System Ambassadors Program. The Pollinators of Hawai‘i session explained the importance of bees for food production, and was led by Jason Graham from University of Hawai'i at Mānoaʻs College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Created and coordinated by award-winning educators Art and Rene Kimura, Astronaut Lacy Veach Day of Discovery was made possible through a partnership that includes KS, Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium, Chatlos Foundation and the Veach ‘ohana.
“The success of this event is really about the students and volunteers and getting them together,” said Rene Kimura. “They make it happen and inspire each other to learn from past experiences, think about today and plant the seeds to make things happen in the future. It’s been an exciting transition of venues from Punahou, a longtime host, to Kamehameha Schools this year. We look forward to seeing this program continue to expand and evolve.”
KS Kapālama Po‘o Kula Dr. Taran Chun praised the volunteers who made the event possible, and looks forward to future events that combine traditional and modern approaches to science.
“Blending both indigenous ʻike with modern science is an advantage for our future ʻōiwi leaders,” said Chun. “We're so honored and grateful for all of the volunteer experts and educators who’ve come to share their manaʻo and inspire our keiki to reach for their dreams and carry on this exciting journey of exploration and discovery.”