Categorized | Education

Waimea students tackle emergency preparedness


On Friday, Jan. 28, a Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School eighth grade class will morph into teams of scientific, emergency preparedness and communications experts to save lives on a tiny volcanic island for a high-tech simulation of an approaching hurricane and an erupting volcano – all to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster – well before these students were born.

Called “Operation Montserrat,” this interactive high tech adventure will use distance learning technology via the internet and video conferencing equipment to hook up Waimea eighth grade students with Mission Control at the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Operation Montserrat is based on a real historical event. As the mission unfolds, the Soufriere Hills volcano on the normally tranquil Caribbean island of Montserrat, has come to life. As flaming pebbles and lava begin their devastation, emergency response teams learn a Category 3 hurricane is approaching.

Using real-time hurricane and seismic data, teams of student specialists will assist Mission Control in saving the residents from certain death.

The student team of volcano specialists will calculate rock fall and volcanic tectonic data to predict what will happen, while the student team of hurricane specialists will track the approaching massive storm and calculate estimated time of arrival on the island.

The student team of evacuation experts will use population maps and available transportation options to move residents out of the danger zones to safe shelters on the island.

Connecting these three teams together with Mission Control will be a fourth team of student communications specialists, who will receive satellite data from the island every 5-6 minutes to convey to the other teams for assessment and, in turn, relay recommendations from all teams back to Mission Control.

This is not the first time WMPCCS classes have participated in the “Operation Montserrat” disaster simulation. In fact, the school’s students and its science teachers conducted the national pilot of this exciting program five years ago, though those particular students have since graduated from high school.

However, the Challenger Learning Center came back to the school to acknowledge its support in the early days of developing the e-Mission project by inviting a new class of eighth graders to re-create the exciting interactive event that uses scientifically accurate data and, in the process, honor the memory of the late Hawaii astronaut Ellison Onizuka.

Since the first e-Mission at WMPCCS in 1996, Wheeling Jesuit University’s Challenger Learning Center has launched many other e-Mission distance learning simulations, which are based on research that these types of rigorous, hands-on educational adventures help students develop critical thinking and communications skills while discovering the relevance of basic science and math classes and also learning to work effectively in teams.

Coordinating the Operation Montserrat e-Mission at WMPCCS is the school’s science teaching team led by science department chair Naui Murphy, working together with Jade Bowman, Sherri Takamoto, Sarah Stevenson and Cherise Mundon. Supporting the program’s technology interface is the school’s information technology director Jay Matsumoto.

To accommodate the “live” connection with Mission Control in West Virginia, the Operation Monserrat e-Mission runs 1:30-3:30 p.m., so will extend into after-school time.

“We thank our entire teacher team and staff for accommodating this rigorous learning adventure,” said WMPCCS Principal John Colson. “We also thank the students and their families for being willing to extend the school day to participate in this.”

Among the standards that this e-Mission will address are earth science, the water cycle, weather, oceans and energy, the rock cycle, lithospheric plates, ecosystems and spheres, risk management, graphing, graph interpretation and math in everyday life.

For more information about Wheeling Jesuit University’s Challenger Learning Center’s e-Mission program, visit

One Response to “Waimea students tackle emergency preparedness”

  1. deb darby says:

    I lived in Montserrat for 12 years thru many eruptions. Hi the interest of accuracy we do not have lava flows.We have pyroclastic flows.These are guite unpredictable,dangerous,and extremely fast moving. Hope yourproject went well.Regards,deb darby……I lived in isles bay until we were forced to relocate,people are allowed back now. We still own a home in the area called lime kiln bay.


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