Hawaii Fourth Graders’ Rite of Passage

@postaday 130; #postaday2011

I don’t know how long it’s been a tradition, but Hawaii Department of Education public school fourth graders visit the Big Island for a trip that gets them in touch with their culture and heritage on so many levels. Volcanology, Hawaiian mythology, responsibility, breaking away from the family for three days of bus rides, lessons, social interaction, being on their best behavior, and loads of fun, too.

Steam vents from Kilauea Caldeira behind Sophie when she was on her 4th-grade Big Island Trip..

My daughter Sophie participated when she was in fourth grade at Koko Head Elementary three years ago, so I know the drill.  Several pictures from that trip are right here on my desk bulletin board. It costs about $500 per child to go, and we parents are tapped periodically through the year to soften the blow. There’s some fundraising done as well, but, really who sends their kids door to door to sell chili tickets anymore? I hit up colleagues, but it’s not something I am comfortable doing. Parents are then required to attend a mandatory meeting to learn what the plans are, what’s expected of their child, what the kids are supposed to have and not to have.

It was difficult for me to let Kid1 go. Not that I thought she’d be lost in a lava tube, it’s  just that I don’t think she had ever been away from me for more than a night. I wasn’t selected to chaperone, a blessing if you ask me. Since then Sophie has been on other trips and just recently went to Maui with her SPARK group to learn about astrophysics. I survived. I always do.

Yesterday John took Charlotte and Sophie to get the three disposable cameras Charlotte would need for her trip. No cellular phones. From what I gather, no electronics. The teachers and chaperones don’t want to have to worry about keeping track of everyone’s devices or keeping them charged. Prescription drugs have to be packed ahead of time, yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Charlotte is ready to go!

Charlotte and her BFF Ariana will be sharing their hotel room with their teacher. That can mean only one thing: HANDFUL! Look, these two girls are sweet kids, but I guess the teacher thinks the best thing for everyone is if she has them with her each night. OK with me. And Ariana’s mom says she’s OK with it, too. One of the strategies the teachers have is to keep kids in separate groups during the day and night. When BFFs are together all day long, the last thing you want is for them to be together all night long as well. Friendships dissolve and it’s a real pain in the butt to take care of bruised psyches.

The students will gather at 3:15 Wednesday morning at school. I’ll take Charlotte and then go across the street to work out at 24-Hour Fitness Hawaii Kai, like I usually do. The group will land in Hilo and stay on that side the first day, exploring Volcanos National Park, Big Island Candies, the Pacific Tsunami Museum, etc. They’ll travel around South Point to the Kona side and check out lava flows and petroglyphs, and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) and learn about the aquaculture activities.

One of the highlights is dinner at Outback Steakhouse, where the kids sit at tables for four, dressed up, and are expected to behave like responsible young adults without handy mommies to cut their steaks. It’s a big deal. I hear they act very grown up. I’ll have to take their word for it. When these kids come back, they leave that facade behind, LOL.

The keiki get worn out, as demonstrated here by Kid1.

When Sophie went on this trip I got a bit verklempt suffering from “Missing First Child Syndrome.” When the big yellow school bus brought them back to Koko Head, you can bet we parents were thrilled to see the excited kids waving out the windows at us. I expect seeing Charlotte off won’t be as difficult for me, but I’m prepared for “Missing MiniMe Syndrome” to set in and I’ll shed some tears for a couple of minutes. What a relief it will be to have her back Friday evening.

Sophie has already got plans. Just now on the phone she wanted me to assure here we’d go to Hana Sushi tomorrow night in Hawaii Kai. Kid1 is excited about conveyor-belt food service and Kid2 wouldn’t eat anything except the rice. How easy it is for siblings to send each other off!

I would be remiss if I were not to declare that this indeed is also a rite of passage for parents.  And it’s only right.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. it’s going to be a strange three days without mini you around. you’ll be a basket case. she’ll have a great time. it’s fun to see those pictures of mini-me on her trip. that seems so long ago.

  2. Great post, Paula. You’ve nailed by feelings about this rite of passage. Raquel went last year and it was difficult for me to send her off (but I also felt blessed not being selected as a chaperone!). It will be easier for me when Leia goes on her Big Island trip next year.

  3. It’s hard as parents to send our kids off on their first adventure, but in my experience, it’s different for the siblings left at home, too. You mention the special one-on-one dinner you’ll have, and we’ve done that, too. But I love seeing that left-behind sibling begin to realize that they do, indeed, miss brother or sister!

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