Will Kyselka

University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Education (COE) Professor Will Kyselka passed away on July 1, 2012. With the COE for more than 30 years, Kyselka devoted his career to teaching, mentoring, and developing curriculum. A revered geology and astronomy expert, he co-authored the Foundational Approaches in Science Teaching (FAST) program that is internationally recognized and used as an exemplary middle school science program.

Kyselka was on the science education faculty in the COE and joined the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG) when it was formed in the late 1960s. CRDG’s Frank Pottenger was the science faculty chair and FAST director when Kyselka was teaching at the University Laboratory School. “When I came to Hawaii, he took me under his wing and showed me all of the ins and outs of the school,” Pottenger said. “Through the years, he was a true colleague and a master in his rapport with students. He will be missed dearly.”

In 1966, Kyselka was appointed associate in astronomy at the Bishop Museum where he conducted lectures at the planetarium. His life-long friendship with Nainoa Thompson would begin there when Thompson approached him with a question that led to lessons in astronomy. In An Ocean Mind, Kyselka recorded the problem-solving and learning process that Thompson went through learning to navigate without instruments. Both An Ocean Mind and North Star to Southern Cross, which details Hawaii astronomy with accompanying star charts, are sold today as part of the FAST program.

Kyselka and his wife, Lee, were on the escort vessel Ishka that accompanied Hokulea on its 1980 maiden voyage, and Will was on board the Hokulea during part of its 1986 Voyage of Discovery. Lee also worked in CRDG on a number of projects, including summer programs. She passed away just two months before her husband.

Bob Campbell, longtime friend and colleague of Kyselka’s, recounted some of their history together. “Will and I were roommates in a two-bedroom Quonset hut when he first moved to Hawaii until he married a few years later. We taught together in the Laboratory School, and he was always my right hand at the Hawaii State Science & Engineering Fair. We remained friends until our retirements in the 90s, and we met from time to time afterwards. Will was a good guy to know and a fine fellow to live with.”

Kyselka came to Hawaii a few years after graduating from the University of Michigan with a BS and MS in geology and an MA in education. Among his many talents, he is widely known for his relaxed and relatable nature, his ability to reach students like no one else could, and his unparalleled competence in his field.

In a Polynesian Voyage Society (PVS) announcement about Kyselka’s passing, Thompson said, “He has been one of the most important and crucial teachers that we have had in the whole 37-year journey of rediscovering our voyaging knowledge” The PVS is creating a Star Book in his name to be used in their education outreach.

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