Skip to content

‘Imiloa’s Debut on the East Coast: A Wrap Up

by Margaret Shiba on June 30th, 2016

As we’ve been reporting, ‘Imiloa made its debut on a national stage in late May and early June! Following the itinerary on the East Coast of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s iconic sailing canoe, Hōkūle‘a, we sent an outreach team to Washington, D.C. and New York City for 18 days (May 26-June 12) to share ‘Imiloa’s unique brand of culture-based science programming with new audiences far from home.

Here are some statistics that show what we accomplished:

•   1,600 participants directly engaged in programming about Polynesian wayfinding, including training on the Hawaiian Star Compass and navigational starlines

•   Perspectives exchanged with 200 colleagues at various roundtables and invited gatherings, including the Indigenous Worldviews in Informal Science Education (IWISE) workshop hosted by ‘Imiloa in Washington, D.C.

•   Hundreds of others reached indirectly through distribution of our educational handout on The Art and Science of Oceanic Wayfinding” 

•   Collaborations launched with seven leading science centers and educational institutions, from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (in both Washington, DC and New York City) and the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum, to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, the Hayden Planetarium, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Lower Eastside Girls Club.

‘Imiloa’s team was made up of Celeste Manuia Ha’o, Education Outreach Coordinator; Mino’aka Macanas, Fiscal Associate/Bookkeeper; and Margaret Shiba, Director of Institutional Advancement. The charge we received from ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka’iu Kimura was (1) to offer programmatic support to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s historic Worldwide Voyage, (2) to explore future collaboration between ‘Imiloa and peer science centers on the mainland, and (3) to facilitate professional development opportunities for ‘Imiloa staff with local counterparts.


Our East Coast trip gave us our first ever opportunity to test out some of the same curriculum and tools we use with our Hawai‘i-based MANU ‘Imiloa program with participants far from our shores! MANU ‘Imiloa is our new outreach program which uses the story of the Hōkūle‘a and the theme of Polynesian voyaging to teach science and math, while inspiring K-12 students to consider majors and careers in STEM disciplines.

What did we learn?

•   Just as ‘Imiloa uses wayfinding as a point of access for teaching science and math, other programs address similar goals through different frameworks.

Case in point: the impressive Billion Oyster Project at the Harbor School on NYC’s Governors Island challenges high school students to figure out how to restore a sustainable oyster population in New York Harbor and reconnect New Yorkers to the ocean!



•   ‘Imiloa may only be ten years old, but educators at much older and better established museums look to us for expertise when asking for advice on how to introduce authentic indigenous voices into their exhibits and programs!



•   Young people like the inner city students at NYC’s Lower Eastside Girls Club may not have many opportunities to see the live night sky up close and personal (though they do have an amazing in-house planetarium!), but the theme of navigation resonates deeply when they are invited to share stories of personal influences and career aspirations!




•   Seasoned museum educators can turn into kids when playing with creative exhibits like those at NYC’s amazing Museum of Mathematics!



•   At 425 seats, the imposing Hayden Planetarium is nearly four times larger than the ‘Imiloa dome, but inspired presenters like ‘Imiloa’s Celeste Ha’o and Kālepa Baybayan were not only able to ‘sell out’ the planetarium, they turned the space into an intimate living room with a live, interactive presentation on the Hawaiian night sky and wayfinding skills!




•   The zodiac constellations decorating the massive cathedral-like ceiling in Grand Central Terminal are laid out in a reverse image of the real night sky…perhaps intended to be viewed from a divine, rather than a human, perspective!






•   And of course we also learned that downtime in New York City was the perfect opportunity to taste a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli, enjoy brunch at Sarabeth’s, or take in views from the top of the Empire State Building!

Empire State

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this success possible, including the Ama OluKai Foundation which provided financial support to partially underwrite our trip,  the science centers which opened their space, shared their equipment, and collaborated with us, and our partners at the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Hālāwai. Thanks also to the farflung ‘Imiloa members and Hawaii folks who sought us out, attended our programs, and even provided greatly appreciated home hospitality.

Our trip generated lots of ideas for future programming, and we hope to be back someday soon.

For more information on our programming or to share ideas and support our future outreach, please contact: Margaret Shiba, Director of Institutional Advancement or call 808.932.8921.

Comments are closed.