Gemini Observatory Press Releases

FOR RELEASE: August 13, 2002


Peter Michaud
Gemini Observatory, Hilo, Hawai'i
Phone: 808/974-2510, 808/987-5876 (Cell)

StarTeachers Exchange Program

Photographs and full-resolution images are available at:

Gemini StarTeachers Exchange Program Strengthens Sister City Ties Between Hilo and La Serena Via New Internet Link

En Español - Versión adaptada en Chile

The children and teachers of Hawai'i and Chile will be the first to benefit from a novel educational program made possible by Gemini Observatory's new high-speed Internet link that connects the twin telescopes on both hemispheres.

Observatory Director Dr. Matt Mountain announced today the new Gemini StarTeachers Exchange Program between Hilo and its Sister City of La Serena, Chile - the two host communities of Gemini Observatory. The announcement was made from Gemini's Hilo Base Facility during a world-wide "virtual inauguration" demonstrating the Internet technology. (See related press release, "Celestial Cybernetics", at

"This is a learning process for all of us," Dr. Mountain said. "We're hopeful this first exchange program will provide us with valuable data and experience on the educational use of our evolving audio-visual Internet capabilities. We want to refine the technology, so we can continue and expand these community-type programs throughout our international observatory partnership."

The goal of the StarTeachers Exchange Program is to foster scientific, educational and cultural understanding through the use of Gemini's latest net-based, audio-visual conferencing technology. Gemini is sponsoring this opportunity for three teachers from each community to exchange visits and interact using the Internet with their students back in their home schools.

"This Gemini teacher exchange is an excellent example of how the Sister City program can benefit our community," said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim. "It is also a great way to bridge international barriers and share our cultural heritage with the world."

"It's very encouraging to see Gemini make available to the community such impressive technology that not only benefits science, but also the teachers and children of both the Big Island and Chile."

Mayor Kim was joined by La Serena Mayor Adriana Peñafiel, in Chile, in acknowledging this contribution to the Sister City relationship.

"This program is a wonderful way to strengthen our ties as Sister Cities," said Mayor Peñafiel.

"It will also open new doors for our teachers by allowing them to experience different educational systems and help motivate them to apply this knowledge in our community."

The StarTeachers program will be offered to teachers in both public and private schools.

"I'm extremely pleased," said Hawai'i State Rep. Helene Hale, of the 4th Representative District. "Now we are beginning the process of a real exchange, which is what the Sister City relationship is all about."

Rep. Hale, along with Mrs. Anamaría Maraboli-Smith of La Serena (a former Big Island resident) led the effort to establish the Sister City relationship between the Big Island and La Serena beginning in 1994.

"This is a significant milestone in our efforts to create a true Sister City connection between the County of Hawai'i and La Serena," said Mrs. Maraboli-Smith in Chile.

"We have worked so hard on this Sister City relationship for so many years and it is very gratifying to see it come to fruition. Thanks to Gemini's programs like this teacher exchange and the StarLab, the Sister City program is benefiting our communities as we had originally envisioned."

Mrs. Maraboli-Smith was referring to Gemini Observatory's purchase of a StarLab portable planetarium for the La Serena schools. Since the program's beginning in 2000, more than 20,000 students and 150 teachers from approximately 60 La Serena-area schools have participated in the StarLab programs. Gemini also sponsors a similar StarLab portable planetarium in Hawai`i which was used in nearly 150 school programs last year on the Big Island.

The Gemini StarTeacher Exchange Program involves reciprocal visits of three teachers from each city, who will be given the opportunity to experience the actual implementation of Gemini's astronomical research programs while sharing insights on each other's culture and educational systems. The teachers will then present real-time, audio-visual classes to their home students via Gemini's new Internet link.

The announcement was one of the highlights of the "virtual inauguration", of Gemini's new high-capacity Internet link, which cybernetically brought together the mayors of Hilo and La Serena, educators, and representatives from the various governmental and university entities responsible for making the new high-speed connection possible.

"I am thrilled that the Gemini Observatory is initiating and sponsoring this partnership," said Valerie Takata, Hawai'i Public Schools Complex Superintendent for North Hilo.

"The partnership between La Serena and Hilo reflects the collaborative efforts of individual organizations bonding in common goals. In this sense the expansion and discovery in science and technology, as well as the opening of minds, eyes and hearts will be achieved.

"The StarTeacher Exchange Program is a golden opportunity for any educator seeking new knowledge and personal and professional experiences. The benefits of living in the community, interacting with the people and working with the children will stretch the cultural bounds well beyond the four walls of an ordinary classroom, or even a textbook. The cultural exchange and understanding will enable these teachers to become the two cities' ambassadors," Ms. Takata said.

Other Big Island educators are also looking to the exchange as an opportunity to view teachers as ambassadors on many levels.

"By sharing Gemini's capability to connect educators on both sides of the globe, this is a truly unique opportunity for all our educational communities," said Nathan Chang Past President of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association and President of the Rotary Club of Hilo Bay.

"I think that the interactions and sense of Aloha generated from this program will resonate far beyond the selected teachers and their students and have a profound impact on the entire educational system."

"This is an ideal expression of the Global Village," said Dr. Judith Saranchock, South Hilo Complex Superintendent for Hawai'i Public Schools. "It's putting people on opposite sides of the world face-to-face. It's about learning that people, teachers, students - despite differences in culture - have universal interests and values."

With twin, 8-meter telescopes located on Mauna Kea on the Big Island and Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes above La Serena, Gemini Observatory is in a unique position to sponsor such an event.

Teachers from both Sister Cities will be invited to submit essay proposals on how they envision using Gemini's new Internet technology to enrich the learning experience of students in the two cities.

One highlight of the program will be a live class via Gemini's new Internet link to the teachers' students back home. It is anticipated this presentation will include both scientific and cultural topics unique to each location. As an example, a Chilean teacher might introduce an astronomical lesson to students back home within the context of celestial navigation by the Polynesians.

"This represents the culmination of a long-expressed desire by many people here in La Serena to have kids and teachers talking to each other across international boundaries," said Dr. Malcolm Smith, Director of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).

CTIO is a part of the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) which has provided U.S. astronomers access to the southern sky for four decades. Gemini and NOAO are both managed for the National Science Foundation by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA).

"Now thanks to Gemini," said Dr. Smith, "these children and their teachers will be given a unique opportunity to experience a much wider world than would normally be available to them."

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration that has built two identical 8-meter telescopes. The telescopes are located at Mauna Kea, Hawai'i (Gemini North) and Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South), and hence provide full coverage of both hemispheres of the sky. Both telescopes incorporate new technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors under active control to collect and focus both optical and infrared radiation from space.

The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in each partner country with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country's contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and the Brazilian Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). The Observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.


Last updated by on August 13, 2002