The Science and Culture of Art - Maui the Kitemaker

Overview and Background

Overview and Background

The Bishop Museum's “Science and Culture of Art” program seeks to teach select standards-based concepts and processes of art, science and social studies disciplines to elementary school students in Title I schools on Oahu.  Under a foundation grant, sessions were co-presented in 2009 by a Bishop Museum science educator and a Native Hawaiian artist.  Students were guided in hands-on activities that included creating artwork, doing science experiments and exploring Native Hawaiian culture.


This series of lessons provides an overview of a 6-week program with Grade 4 students at Ka Wai Hona O Ka Naauao Charter and Waianae Elementary schools in the spring term of 2009.  The activities focus on integrating the Stories of Maui and the "Science of Paradise" through traditional Hawaiian Kapa Kite making.


The "Maui the Kitemaker" program focus was on integrating legends of the Hawaiian demigod Maui whose many adventures included “How Maui Slowed the Sun” and “Maui the Kite Maker”. While making their kapa kites, students were taught the science behind Hawaii’s weather and plants. They learned that Hawaiians themselves were in fact scientists.


Funded by the George P. & Ida Tenny Castle Trust, the 2009 Science and Culture of Art program was the conclusion of a 3-year outreach program led by Bishop Museum.

Enduring Understandings

  • Art derives from local culture.

  • The oral tradition explains the nature of the world.

Lesson 1 - Maui the Kite Maker and Scientist

Lesson 1 - Maui the Kite Maker and Scientist

OVERVIEW: (Cultural/Science/Art): Introduction to stories of Maui the Trickster; links to the Science of Paradise and an introduction to kapa kites.


Stories will be told of Maui, including “Maui the Kite Maker” and “How Maui Slowed the Sun”. The connectedness between these stories, scientific concepts, and cultural practices will be made through an understanding of the science behind the sun and earth's daily rotation and annual revolution, Hawaii’s weather, winds and seasonal impacts on Hawaii and its plants.

Visit the Assessments and Standards page at the end of this Learning Center for a list of relevant state standards.




Why do we have Seasons?


In winter, we receive less sunlight as the earth is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. The sun rises and sets far to the south, and is above the horizon for a short time frame. Daytime is shorter (+8 hours) compared to nighttime. The winter solstice (shortest day of the year) is December 21.


In Spring, the sun rises in the middle of the sky. It rises and sets between the compass points (sun moves from due east to west). Days and nights are equally 12 hours long (equinox – meaning when days and nights are equal). The first day of Spring (March 20 or 21) is called the Spring or Vernal Equinox.


In Summer, the earth tilts 23.5 degrees toward the sun. The sun rises high in the sky and is positioned in the northern part of the sky. The Summer Solstice, longest day of the year, occurs around June 21.


In Fall, we again experience equal amounts of daytime and nighttime. Again, the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. The Fall Equinox occurs on September 22.


Traditional Hawaiian seasons may be generally classified into two periods. Kau, or the summer period, normally lasts from mid-April until mid-October. Ho‘oilo, or the winter season, usually lasts from mid-October to mid-April. Although mild by the standards of temperate regions, the winter season is characterized by slightly lower temperatures than those that occur during the summer, and by frontal or cyclonic storms that can bring strong northerly winds and much rainfall to some areas of the islands.

The Character of Hawaiian Climate and Seasons 

Native Hawaiians recognized only two seasons. KAU was the fruitful season, the season when the sun was directly or almost directly overhead, when the weather was warmer, and when the trade winds were most reliable. HOO-ILO was the season when the sun was in the south, when the weather was cooler, and when the trade winds were most often interrupted by other winds. Modern analysis of the climatic records shows the soundness of this Hawaiian system of seasons, although analysis requires a slight modification of the old definitions. Whereas the Hawaiians recognized two six-month seasons, with KAU extending from May through October and HOO-ILO from November through April, it is more accurate to recognize a winter season of seven months (October through April) and a summer season of five months (May through September)

The Climate Setting 

The dominance of the trade winds and the influence of terrain give special character to the climate of the islands.

The most prominent feature of the circulation of air across the Hawaii is the persistent tradewind flow in a general east-to-west direction. In the central North Pacific, the trade winds blow from the northeast quadrant, and represent the outflow of air from the great region of high pressure, the Pacific Anticyclone, whose typical location is well north and east of the Hawaiian Island Chain. The Pacific High, and with it the tradewind zone, moves north and south with the sun, so that it reaches its northernmost position in the summer half year. This brings the heart of the trade winds across Hawaii during the period May through September (KAU) when the trades are prevalent 80 to 95 percent of the time.

From October through April (HOO-ILO), Hawaii is located to the north of the heart of the trade winds. Nevertheless, the trades still blow across the islands much of the time, though with a frequency that has decreased to 50 to 80 percent in terms of average monthly values.

Lesson 1 - Activities

Lesson 1 - Activities

Maui the Kite Maker Story and Discussion.

The Science of Paradise  includes basics of the sun, its relation to the earth’s daily rotation and annual revolution. This will be followed by a basic understanding of how this affects Hawaii seasons and the length of days, a brief overview of trade winds, with links to Maui’s stories.


Activity 1:

Maui the Kite Maker and Discussion (30 mins)



Maui the Kite Maker Story By T. Cummings (Resource CD); also included in print in this Learning Center (see the next page).



Read to students the Maui the Kite Maker Story by Tom Cummings.


Prior to reading, give thought to the following. Express these points of view during discussion with students.


Scientific Point of View

I. In the story, the scientific inquiry process is expressed, which includes:

Step 1: Creation of a HYPOTHESIS. How was that told in the story?

Step 2: Testing the HYPOTHESIS: How was that told in the story?

Step 3: Collecting/Recording/Modifying the HYPOTHESIS. How was that expressed?

Step 4: Reporting the validity of the HYPOTHESIS: How was that expressed?


II. In Maui’s quest to prove his HYPOTHESIS, tell specifically whether or not his process went smoothly (a) with the people he associated with, (b) and with the forces of nature.


III. The experiences Maui has to prove his HYPOTHESIS are generally the same as that of any scientist today.

Cite in specific details how you personally experienced what Maui experienced.

Cite in specific details how a scientist in history actually experienced what Maui experienced.


Literary Point of View

I. Maui has an “attitude” in the beginning of the story. What is it?


II. In what way does that initial “attitude” eventually change as the story unfolds?


III. When you read the last sentence of the story, did Maui’s “attitude” completely change?


IV. Conflict is an expected feature in any story. How is conflict expressed in the story? Name the three conflicts that are present.


V. Making comparisons to real life situations is an expected outcome of reading a story. Name one person you know who fits Maui’s attitude. How about you?


VI.  Other literary elements in the story:

Setting: Tell where the story is happening, in general.

Time: Tell when the story occurs, in general.

Hero: Who is the hero in this story, in your opinion?

Villain: Who is the villain in this story, in your opinion?


Activity 2:

The Science of Paradise (30 mins)


Place a sphere or lamp in the middle of the room to represent the sun. Students will understand the relationship between the sun and the earth’s daily rotation and annual revolution. Earth balls will be used to show seasonal rotation.

Students will understand that the earth’s axis is tilted.

Students will understand that the seasons are caused by the tilt of the earth’s axis relative to the sun, and that Hawaii’s unique seasons and climate are attributed to this.



Lamp or light source to represent the sun

3” diameter styrofoam balls

8” long sticks (chopsticks work fine)

1 marker (any color) – mark the equator and tropic zones

Globe of the world

Season, month, and Hokupa’a/North Star cards (Resource CD)

Small and large gourd (representing small and strong winds)



Place a lamp in the middle of a darkened room to represent the sun. Choose one side of the room and place the North Star/Hokupa’a card high on the wall.


Note N for north pole on the top of styrofoam ball and S for south pole on the bottom. You may also draw the equator around the middle of the ball horizontally. The earth is tilted approximately 23 degrees off true.

Prior to activity push sticks (chopsticks) through styrofoam ball to represent earth’s axis at 23-degree angle.


Alternatively, this activity can also be done without the styrofoam balls where students can be the earth instead. Explain that their head will be the north pole, their feet the south pole, their waist the equator and their belly button is Hawaii.



The Earth's Relationship to the Sun:

Ask students which rotates around which, the sun around the earth, or the earth around the sun. Why? The sun is the center of our solar system with each planet rotating around the sun. How many months there are in a year? Have students walk around the sun (lamp) the same as the earth moves around the sun for one complete year. Say the months of the year as you go around the lamp. But what else does the earth do as it goes around the sun? It spins on its axis, taking 24 hours to make a complete spin. One full spin of the earth is one day. Have students spin in one spot, facing the lamp for daytime, away for night time.


The North Star/Hokupa’a:


Next, have students stand in a wide circle around the lamp. Students should be as close to the perimeter as possible, since this will reduce the opportunity for them to roughhouse. Ask students to hold their earth ball in front of their chest, with the North Pole pointing straight up. Explain that the earth has a north and south pole, but that the axis is NOT straight up and down, but in fact tilted towards the North Star/Polaris (Hawaiian name Hokupa’a). Ask students to tilt their earth balls towards Hokupa’a or their head (put a picture of a star on far wall). If students are using their bodies, have them point their heads (the north pole) towards Hokupa’a. Check to see that all the balls are tilted towards Hokupa’a. Assist students if necessary.




Ask one student who is farthest away from Hokupa’a (i.e. the sun is in between them and Hokupa’a) whether his/her north pole is tilted towards or away from the sun (towards the sun). Ask another student who is closest to Hokupa’a whether his/her north pole is tilted towards or away from the sun (away). Ask the class to make a guess as to which student represents the earth in the summer and which student represents the earth in the winter. Put “winter” and “summer” signs over the appropriate students.


Ask students which season comes between winter and summer (spring). Have class guess which student is in the spring position. Put the “spring” sign on the appropriate student. Have class guess which student is in the autumn position and put “autumn” sign on the appropriate student. Ask the spring and autumn students whether their axis is tilted towards or away from the sun. Have students notice that in both spring and autumn, the earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun.


Now have the students look at their bellybuttons (or where Hawaii would be on their styrofoam ball). How is Hawaii positioned with regard to the sun? Pretty much the same the whole year round, but slightly different in winter and summer. This is why Hawaii has such beautiful weather most of the year round.


Hawaii’s Seasons and Months:


As in most tropical climates, there are two seasons in Hawai'i, the cooler wetter season called Ho'oilo, and the hotter, drier season called Kau. Both seasons last about six months. Place the season card for KAU and HO’OLIO in the appropriate location around the circle. Ask students what kind of weather they see in Kau and Ho’olio where they live.


The Science of Paradise (Trades vs. Kona Winds):


But why isn’t Hawaii as hot as elsewhere on the equator? This is because of the tradewinds. Explain what wind is. Using a globe of the world demonstrate that tradewinds come from Alaska bringing cool air and wind across Hawaii. During the period May through September (KAU) the trades are very strong, blowing away much of the hot air from the equator and making the temperature much nicer. HOWEVER from October through April (HOO-ILO), Hawaii is located different (to the north of the heart of the trade winds). This allows warmer winds to come from the equator/south. These winds are called Kona winds. In addition as there are less trade winds to interrupt them, Hawaii is more prone to hurricanes and storms from the south.

Which of the two wind gourds do you think may represent hurricanes and storms that come up from the south to Hawaii during winter? The ipu iki (small wind gourd) or the ipu nui (large wind gourd)?


Hawaiian Months and Practices:


As we demonstrated earlier, Hawaiians also have 12 months in one year. Walk around circle again, this time saying both  Hawaiian and western months (use name cards with associated practices and place in appropriate location for month). Discuss why Hawaiians chose to do certain practices in certain months i.e. plant kalo on these months (what was the weather like?).



Read to students How Maui Slowed the Sun by Suelyn Ching Tune (Author), Robin Yoko Burningham (Illustrator)


Ask the questions:


Why did Maui want to slow down the sun?


After Maui slowed down the sun, which season had longer days? (Summer)

Which season had shorter days? (Winter)


How does the length of day affect how plants grow? Why do we and animals rely on plants? Why is important that we have seasons for plants?


Using the same concept as the Science of Paradise activity, have students revise the rotation of the earth around the sun with the seasons.


Ask the question: "Look at the amount of sun on the Northern Hemisphere during summer; in the winter. Why it is that we have shorter days in winter and longer days in summer?" Reiterate that because of Hawaii’s latitude (position on earth), although Hawaii also has longer days in summer and shorter days in winter, the difference in length between summer days and winter days is much smaller.

Lesson 1 - Maui the Proud Kite Maker as told by Thomas C. Cummings, Jr.

Lesson 1 - Maui the Proud Kite Maker as told by Thomas C. Cummings, Jr.

            Folks told each other that, this time, Maui the super doer was a fool when he boasted that he knew how to make a sail fly. You see, not one person knew that for a full winter season he’d carefully studied sails being pushed about by the wind. The result was his contraption, which looked like nonsense to family and friends as they inspected it.

It was fashioned out of the lightest bark-cloth, nearly the size of a house. And to hold the cloth open, he tied hau branches across its surface and at the edges. Then the thing was knotted to a long roll of olona cordage so it couldn’t escape. Maui called it pe’a – as sails were named, and which he noted were sadly stuck to canoes, unable to fly.

“The only way to test if it’ll really take flight,” he declared to folks – who never stopped wondering if he knew what he was doing – “is to get the best winds possible. Not the sort that’s already around us.”

For that, Maui ran to the Wind Cave, thinking: Wind Lady is the best at calling winds to appear magically. When he arrived at the mouth of her cave, he ordered, “Open your ipu iki – small gourd – and let na makani blow free.”

“Why so?” she asked. “There’s surely enough throughout our everyday space to satisfy you.”

“That won’t do. I want the best there is. So do as I say,” Maui snorted, dismissing Wind Lady’s wise words.

“Do you really know what you’re asking?” she warned. But nevertheless, she pulled away the plug of the little gourd to let loose the magical winds.

Maui was ecstatic, for when the back of his pe`a faced the invisible force of one of the little winds, it lifted into the air. “Ha! You see it does fly – proves how clever I am.” And throughout the morning and into noon, he happily watched the kite drift from one end of the sky to the other. Wonderstruck to see his invention dip, soar and spin as he ran side to side, back and forth, loosening and pulling on the cord, as the pe’a stayed in clear view.

He especially loved that the string he held fast to gave him complete control to guide the kite’s playful flight over the pathways of the sky, no matter which one of the little winds tugged at it.

“Come, see what I’ve done,” he boasted to the population, who were clearly impressed – how quickly they’d forgotten that they’d called him a fool.

Just before the sun slipped into the ocean, Wind Lady called, “Boy, that’s enough for the day. I need to chant the little winds back into their gourd.”

“Not yet,” Maui snapped. “I’m having too much fun.”

“You’re an impatient one,” Wind Lady observed. “You must learn to control your passion.” And that said she coaxed the winds into the gourd with her sing-song voice.

With his chin slumped on his chest, pouting, Maui walked home, dragging his kite behind. “Who is she to spoil my fun!” he grumbled.

Early the next morning, Maui popped from his sleep-mat, grabbed his kite and sprinted to the Wind Cave. “Wake up, Wind Lady. Let me have some magical winds. And this time from your ipu nui – large gourd.”

The sleepy-eyed lady, scolded. “There you are again, demanding. And besides, this time you want the strongest winds, from the ipu nui.” She wagged a finger and shook her head at Maui. “You ask too much – you know too little. Be satisfied with the winds from the small gourd. And again, what’s wrong with the winds already all about us?”

“No, no, from the large one it is.” He glared at her then clapped his hands to get the full measure of the woman’s attention as he spoke on. “After all, it was I who slowed down the sun to make life better for you and others. You owe me a favor.”

Without a word, pressing her lips shut, Wind Lady lugged the giant gourd out of the cave and pulled the wooden plug out.

Winds blasted out of the gourd nearly knocking Maui to the ground. Like a giant hand, one of the winds seized his kite and jerked it skyward. Lucky that Maui had the end of the cord wrapped around his hand so not to lose the kite. So he thought.

Slashing into high heaven, the kite soared further and further away, pulling with it the full length of the cord, nearly jerking Maui’s arms off. And, since he refused to let go of the cord, the wind had no choice but to snap it off at the middle and abduct his kite to some far place upon the wide sea.

In short time, Maui went from being a cocksure dandy to a distraught louse – in such a pitiful mood. Justifiably so.

The other winds from the large gourd, in a fury, did the most sorrowful damage. Trees were knocked flat: banana plants in their stands, tall coconut palms at every grove, sturdy-trunk koa in every forest. Not any plant escaped injury.

Canoes were snatched from their moorings and swept out to the deep sea to sink. Thatched houses were shredded and tossed everywhere. The infuriated winds stirred the sea to a massive swell then made it creep inland, drowning lots and lots of pigs, dogs, chickens – even a few of the older elders and youngest children.

A most unhappy scene – desolate. The moans and cries of the islanders turned to bitter, unrelenting curses. All hurled at Maui. “You! you’re the wrong-doer. Stay away from us,” men and women screamed. One’s imagination could never dampen the other angriest words they spat at Maui. Even children, who saw him approach, understandably shrieked and dashed far from him.

It took the greatest effort by Wind Lady to cajole the storm winds to return to their gourd. By the time she capped the ipu nui, she was body weary. “That boy will never again get me to set them free,” she swore.

Now, Maui couldn’t sleep nor eat. People not once smiled at him. They even turned their eyes from his. He was left alone every day. No one visited him; no one invited him into any home. Through all that time, his head and heart hurt from thinking what to do to be forgiven for the terrible winds he ordered to be let loose.

After more days of anguish, Maui realized: “Well, it was the pe`a, that’s what started the trouble.” So back he went to his idea of making a kite. “Only, it’s not going to be big as a house.”

Instead, Maui tied together a little kite. And though he understood that he couldn’t ever do without wind to fly it, he was sure he would never order Wind Lady to let loose the magical winds from the two gourds. Rather, to fly his kite day after day, Maui only trusted the winds that already swirled all about, which suited him.

He observed useful circumstances as he flew his kite. If it jerked and jiggled a certain way, he saw that it brought heavy clouds with rain. When pe’a glided softly, he noticed that a clear, sunny day would appear. When his lupe – the other name he gave his kite – flew toward the house of the setting sun, a mugginess was felt. In fact each up and down and here and there, with the wiggle, waggle of his kite told Maui what the weather would be like.

Maui shared his weather-wisdom with everyone: farmers, fishers, bird catchers, sailors, toolmakers, flower and fern gatherers, chanters and hula masters, herbalist. No person was exempt. It should be said that all of his predications were correct – thanks to his keen observations of the kite’s movements.

Over time, for his on-going and kind help, people loved Maui, anew.

And what did Maui say to that? “I’ll never to do anything ever again in an arrogant, stubborn and demanding manner.” It was a promise the super hero kept, most of the time.

Lesson 1 - Additional Cultural Background

Lesson 1 - Additional Cultural Background

Hawaiian Seasons, Months and Associated Practices


In ancient times, the months were marked by the appearance of different stars and constellations in the eastern sky at sunset. The names of the months varied from district to district and island to island. The following names are from the Prince Kuhi'o Hawaiian Civic Club Calendar, published annually.

Ho'oilo (Cooler, Wetter Season)
Welehu (Oct.-Nov.)--Makali'i (Pleiades) appears in the ENE sky after sunset. Rainy season. Makahiki, a four-month long harvest festival, dedicated to Lono, a god of rain and agriculture, began toward the end of Kau and continued into the new year. 'Opelu and akule fishing.

Makali'i (Nov.-Dec.)--Sun rises and sets at its southern limit (winter solstice). Land prepared for planting. 'Opelu and akule fishing; 'ama'ama (mullet) spawning and kapu through Feb. Kohola (humpbacked-whales) feed and breed in island waters through April.

Ka'elo (Dec.-Jan.)--'A'a (Sirius) and Orion in the eastern evening sky. 'Uala (sweet potato) planting in dry leeward areas to take advantage of winter rains. Reef and inshore fishing.

Kaulua (Jan.-Feb.)--Ke Ali'i o Kona i ka Lewa (Canopus) in the SE by S evening sky. In traditional times, aku kapu lifted at the end of Makahiki; 'opelu kapu through July during its spawning season; reef and inshore fishing. Planting period for all crops--kalo, 'uala. Gourds, wauke (bark cloth), olona (for cordage), bananas, yams, arrowroot.

Nana (Feb.-Mar.)--Sun rises due east and sets due west (spring equinox). Mulch and weed gardens; vigorous plant growth begins. 'Ama'ama fishing season opens; malolo (flying fish) spawning.

Welo (Mar.-April)--Leo in the eastern evening sky. All things grow, crops maturing. 'Ama'ama and malolo fishing. Deep-sea fishing through summer. 'Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua (monk seal) pups are born, spring through summer

Hinaia'ele'ele (June-July)--Manaiakalani (Maui's Fishhook, or Scorpio) in the SE evening sky. Humid weather, sudden storms. 'Ohi'a 'ai (mountain apple) ripens; gourds and melons ripen. In traditional times, 'opelu kapu lifted; aku kapu through Jan. during its spawning season; akule spawning.

Hilinaehu (July-August)--Leo in the western evening sky. 'Ohi'a 'ai abundant. He'e (octopus) fishing with lures.

Hilinama (Aug.-Sept.)--Sun rises due east and sets due west (fall equinox). Tubers ripen for harvest; sugar cane blossoms, vines dying off. Ula and moi season; 'opelu fishing.

'Ikuwa (Sept.-Oct.)--Iwakeli'i (Cassiopeia) in the NNE evening sky. Thunder and rain. Plant growth slows. Kalo and 'uala harvest. Preparation for the Makahiki Harvest Festival. Akule and 'Opelu plentiful.

Ka'aona (May-June)--Sun rises and sets at its northern limit (summer solstice). 'Ulu (breadfruit) ripens. Ula (lobster) and moi kapu through August during their spawning seasons. Aku and 'ahi (tuna) season.

Kau (Hotter, Drier Season)
Ikiiki (April-May)--Makali'i in the WNW evening sky; Hokule'a (Arcturus) in the ENE evening sky. 'Uala planting with summer rains. Honu (green sea turtles) come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand through summer. Great schools of moi (threadfish) and malolo.

Lesson 2 - Introduction to Kapa, Kapa Plants, and Beating of the Kapa

Lesson 2 - Introduction to Kapa, Kapa Plants, and Beating of the Kapa


Kapa was the “cloth” that was used by the people of the South Pacific Islands and Hawaii. Not an actual cloth, kapa was really paper, though strong sturdy paper that made excellent clothes and blankets. In our activities we will learn how people found and chose plants for kapa making, how they made tools, and the many uses of kapa. Students will make kapa themselves using traditional tools. (Art/Culture)


People living on islands had to make the most with the materials at hand to live and survive. Science was not an abstract idea to people who worked closely with nature. Rather, it was critical to be aware of the way nature behaved in order to live in harmony with it. How does the way we live and interact with nature now differ from the way people lived in ancient times? For example, people paid very close attention to the rain and sun because they directly affected food sources, such as banana, kalo and sweet potato. If there was a drought or a famine and the food plants died, the people in the village or the entire island would be directly affected. Many might die, or they might have to move somewhere else. Today, our food comes from all around the world. If there are no vegetables in one place, people will buy them from some other country. The grocery stores we shop at will almost always have the food we are accustomed to eating.

Lesson 2 - Activities

Lesson 2 - Activities

What is kapa?


Kapa or bark cloth is the native cloth of Hawaii and other parts of Polynesia. In other Polynesian dialects it is called tapa. It is produced most commonly from bast fibers or inner bark of a particular tree, the wauke, (Broussonetia papyrifera). It can also be made from the inner bulk of the paper mulberry. The trees are grown in small groups near the villages until they are around six feet tall. They are harvested and the inner bark removed by scraping it off with a turtle shell or similar implement. It is soaked until pulpy. Then the fibers are pounded with a mallet to further soften them.


The pulpy mass is overlapped in four or five layers at 90-degree angles and pounded together. It is then dried. This produces a paper-like cloth which can be used for clothing or decoration.


Everyday tapa was produced with little soaking and resulted in a harsher cloth. Well-soaked and fermented fibers produced the best tapa, which was used for the ceremonial garments used by chiefs.


The cloth was decorated by painting with various natural dyes, usually in abstract symbolic patterns which may have had magical or mystical significance.


The Making of Hawaiian Kapa

Kapa making was an activity that included everyone. Men would care for and gather plants, while the women made and painted the kapa. Hawaiian values of laulima, working together, aloha ‘aina, caring for the land, lokahi, unity, and ohana, family, underlay kapa making. Students will start the kapa making process by learning about choosing good trees, how to use the tools correctly, what each step of kapa making is and the importance of being patient and careful in their work. The will also learn the importance of being supportive to each other as they learn a new skill.


How did people learn what trees they could use to make kapa out of? What qualities does this tree bark have that others don’t? What qualities would a plant or tree need to become good kapa? Experiment by pounding on different types of tree bark or different plants. How did they decide to beat it to make it get bigger?


Part 1. Pounding Kapa/ First Beating (90 minutes):


It is a good idea to have a helper who knows kapa making if this is done with a whole class. It is recommended that teachers take an introductory kapa making class before teaching it themselves. This activity was created specifically to be used for fourth grade students in the schools. Kapa pounding activities should be done outside, preferably away from other classrooms.



-Kapa tools or kapa kit, kapa curriculum book (May be purchased from the Cultural Learning Center at Ka`ala, 696-4954)

-Mats to sit on

-Wauke trees

-Tools for first beating: Opihi shell (scraper), niho mano (shark tooth knife), hohoa (round beater), kua pohaku (stone anvil)



-Impress upon students the importance of respecting the tools and handling them safely, not to throw, break or sit or step on them, not to hurt or tease each other with them. Students who do not comply with this important rule should not use the tools.

-Step 1. Scrap off the outer layer of the wauke with the opihi shell. The outer layer is actually three layers; the brown bark, the dark green inner bark, and a pale green inside bark. The kapa layer is white. Care must be taken not to remove this layer until the correct time. The branch is ready when all the bark is scraped off. Occasionally oxidation occurs that will turn the wauke light brown. This will not scrape off but will disappear later.

-Step 2. Carefully make a cut down the length of the branch with the shark tooth knife. Supervision of students is required and they may need help. Steady but not excessive pressure is required to cut through the inner bark of the wauke.

-Step 3. Opening the bark at the cut, the bark is carefully loosened and removed from the branch in one piece. Do not peel like a banana. Depending on the wauke, range of difficulty is easy to difficult. Students will need supervision to make sure they remove the inner bark correctly.

-Step 4. Take the stone, lay the kapa on it lengthwise. The wauke fibers run top to bottom on the tree. Pounding these fibers in the correct direction insures that they spread. Students need to hold the end of the kapa in one hand and starting at the very top of the wauke, pound, using the round beater with the other hand. The objective is to pound the fibers apart, making the kapa wider. The kapa can be beaten to three times or more its original width. A small amount of water can be used as the fibers spread, to help them move more. The kapa should be beaten top to bottom and to the same width. When the beating gets too close to students' fingers, the kapa can be turned so the now narrow end is at the top. It can then be flipped to the other side and the process repeated. Teachers need to watch for tears or holes in the kapa which are not easily fixed at this stage.

-Step 5. Depending on the next activity, the kapa can be soaked for fermentation and the second beating, or it can be dried for dying and printing.


Part 2. Preparing Kapa to Ferment:

In Hawaiian kapa, the fermentation step is what sets it apart from the rest of the Polynesian bark cloth. Fermentation softens the fibers and makes them more pliable, giving Hawaiians the ability to make large pieces of kapa without having to attach pieces together.


Time required:

20 minutes; do as students finish pounding



-Ziploc bags with student's name written in Sharpie ink

-one ti leaf with center stem removed for each student




Step 1. Fold kapa into a small square

Step 2. Place kapa on tip of ti leaf and fold over, making a ti leaf packet. Tie with cord or long end of ti leaf stem.

Step 3. Place ti leaf packet in Ziploc bag and fill with water to cover entire kapa packet and release excess air. Keep bags in a large container and place container in a warm or sunny area. Heat helps the fermentation progress. In about three days the bags will begin to expand from gases building up inside. The smell will be sour. It is a good idea to release this built-up gas in the bags or the bags may pop open. Let kapa ferment for two weeks. The smell will be bad.

Lesson 3 - Investigation Fermentation - The Making of Hawaiian Kapa Continued...

Lesson 3 - Investigation Fermentation - The Making of Hawaiian Kapa Continued...


Students learn about the importance of fermentation in the making of Hawaiian kapa as they do the second beating that will create the actual cloth. They learn about new tools and their purposes and differences from the tools they first used. What is the purpose of fermentation of the kapa? Does it affect the cells of the wauke?



People learned to let nature help them do their work, such as fermentation in kapa making. By letting the kapa ferment in water over time, the kapa was much finer and softer then when it wasn’t fermented.

Lesson 3 - Activities

Lesson 3 - Activities

The Making of Hawaiian Kapa Continued…


Second Kapa Beating (90 minutes):

As per Lesson 2, it is a good idea to have a helper who knows kapa making if this is done with a whole class. It is recommended that teachers take an introductory kapa making class before teaching it themselves. This activity was created specifically to be used for fourth grade students in the schools. Kapa pounding activities should be done outside preferably away from other classrooms.



-Kapa Tools needed: I’e kuku (square beater with lines and markings)

-Kua la’au (wooden anvil)

-Small bowls or cups of water



Step 1. Give each student his/her bag of kapa. Instruct students to pour the water out of the bags without dropping the kapa on the ground. Do this away from the class or pour into the plants. Explain that the bad smell means the fermentation is working.

Step 2. Have each student remove the ti leaf packet from the bag. Throw the bag away. Carefully untie and unroll the ti leaf and take out the kapa square. Squeeze some of the water out of the kapa carefully. Throw the ti leaf away or mulch outdoor plants with it.

Step 3. Take the kapa to the wooden anvil and open it. It will be very slimy, smelly and fragile. Arrange it in the same lengthwise direction as during the first beating. Explain to students that it is during this part of the process that the kapa can be fixed if there are holes or tears.

Step 4. There is a technique to making and then teaching kapa and again, it is highly recommended that if you teach this activity, you are first trained yourself. Fold the kapa over on itself lengthwise if it is very thin or has holes or tears. Using the side of the square beater that has the thinnest lines, begin beating the kapa gently, starting from the very top. The objective is the same as with the first beating: to spread the kapa and make it wider. Now students have to watch that they don’t overbeat it and cause more damage. This stage will require supervision to insure that students’ kapa is coming along all right. When the kapa is the desired width and intact lay the kapa somewhere to dry, either inside or outdoors. You can place each kapa on a paper towel and write the student’s name on the paper. Allow to dry.

Lesson 4 - Up close and personal: What do leaves look like under magnification?

Lesson 4 - Up close and personal: What do leaves look like under magnification?


What differences might you see when viewing a leaf with the naked aye and under magnification? Draw them side-by-side and compare. Then let’s take a look at what makes that microscope work.



The leaf characteristics visible to the naked eye and with the aid of magnification are very different. Drawing the magnified image as an inset helps students understand how it fits in the “bigger picture”. Students also learn how a microscope works.




We all know that drawing an object can be a great way to heighten a student's skill in observation, but it also helps him or her see and remember details. The scale at which one examines an object will determine the level of detail that it is possible to observe. The level of detail that can be seen will determine just what can be captured in an illustration. A useful exercise is to draw the whole object (in this case a leaf or plant) and then look at a portion of it under a microscope. The small area under the microscope can be drawn as an inset of the larger illustration.


If a small portion of the object seen under the microscope is drawn alone, it can be out of context and the viewer may not know what part of the larger whole is shown. Putting the magnified drawing as an inset and indicating the place it represents on the larger specimen helps the viewer to better understand the illustration. A note of the magnification is also useful.


Microscopes are wonderful tools that have been around for hundreds of year. Here’s an explanation of how they work, downloaded from “How stuff works” at


How Light Microscopes Work by Craig C. Freudenrich, Ph.D.

Introduction to How Light Microscopes Work

Ever since their invention in the late 1500s, light microscopes have enhanced our knowledge in basic biology, biomedical research, medical diagnostics and materials science. Light microscopes can magnify objects up to 1,000 times, revealing microscopic details. Light-microscopy technology has evolved far beyond the first microscopes of Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Special techniques and optics have been developed to reveal the structures and biochemistry of living cells. Microscopes have even entered the digital age, using charge-coupled devices (CCDs) and digital cameras to capture images. Yet the basic principles of these advanced microscopes are a lot like those of the student microscope you may have used in your first biology class.


The Basics

A light microscope works very much like a refracting telescope, but with some minor differences. Let's briefly review how a telescope works.

A telescope must gather large amounts of light from a dim, distant object; therefore, it needs a large objective lens to gather as much light as possible and bring it to a bright focus. Because the objective lens is large, it brings the image of the object to a focus at some distance away, which is why telescopes are much longer than microscopes. The eyepiece of the telescope then magnifies that image as it brings it to your eye.


In contrast to a telescope, a microscope must gather light from a tiny area of a thin, well-illuminated specimen that is close-by. So the microscope does not need a large objective lens. Instead, the objective lens of a microscope is small and spherical, which means that it has a much shorter focal length on either side. It brings the image of the object into focus at a short distance within the microscope's tube. The image is then magnified by a second lens, called an ocular lens or eyepiece, as it is brought to your eye.

The other major difference between a telescope and a microscope is that a microscope has a light source and a condenser. The condenser is a lens system that focuses the light from the source onto a tiny, bright spot of the specimen, which is the same area that the objective lens examines.

Also unlike a telescope, which has a fixed objective lens and interchangeable eyepieces, microscopes typically have interchangeable objective lenses and fixed eyepieces. By changing the objective lenses (going from relatively flat, low-magnification objectives to rounder, high-magnification objectives), a microscope can bring increasingly smaller areas into view -- light gathering is not the primary task of a microscope's objective lens, as it is a telescope's.

Make a Simple Microscope

You can make a simple microscope by using magnifying glasses and paper:

  1. Get two magnifying glasses and a sheet of printed paper.

  2. Hold one magnifying glass a short distance above the paper. The image of the print will look a little bit larger.

  3. Place the second magnifying glass between your eye and the first magnifying glass.

  4. Move the second glass up or down until the print comes into sharp focus. You will notice that the print appears larger than it does in the first magnifying glass.

Lesson 4 - Activities

Lesson 4 - Activities

Time: 45 minutes



Inset:  A small picture inserted within the bounds of a larger one

Concave: (of an object or surface) curved inwards like the inner surface of a sphere.

Convex: Having a surface or boundary that curves or bulges outward, as the exterior of a sphere.




Microscopes or hand lenses or magnifying glasses

Pencil and paper

Flat-sided bottle

Convex bottle

Concave bottle if you can find one (maybe a hurricane glass?)


Have students make line drawings of a plant or leaf with their naked eye. Then have them examine parts of the leaf under magnification. Have them choose a portion and draw it as an inset. Make a box around the inset and have them indicate on the larger illustration the area that was observed under magnification and at what power the inset was drawn.


Do short demonstration of how a microscope or magnifying glass works. Have water in a flat-sided bottle and one that is convex. Show how the curved “lens” bends the light and magnifies it. If you can find one that is concave, show the opposite effect when the curves go the other way.


When students have finished one or more illustrations, have them think about and discuss different ways of illustrating the same plant, e.g., photos, paintings, etc. What might be reasons for making different representations of the same thing? What are the differences between and relative advantages of scientific illustration vs. abstract art?


Lesson 5 - Kapa, Hawaiian Super Cloth!: What does Kapa look like under a Microscope?

Lesson 5 - Kapa, Hawaiian Super Cloth!: What does Kapa look like under a Microscope?


People learned to let nature help them do their work, such as fermentation in kapa making. By letting the kapa ferment in water over time, the kapa was not only stronger but also much finer and softer then when it wasn’t fermented, making it much more comfortable to wear than tapa.


Students will draw and describe different old (historic) and new (contemporary) fabrics as seen under a microscope. Are they different? If so, how? If not, what are their similarities?


Alternatively, students can complete this activity with a magnifying glass.



Students will draw, compare and contrast the various stages of kapa production under magnification: i.e., wauke bark; first beating; the final product after fermentation; and water marking. Hawaiian kapa is made using various processes, making it known as one of the strongest bark cloths in the world.


Students will draw, describe and compare Hawaiian kapa with Tongan tapa.


Students will then draw, describe and compare two fabrics of Hawaii, kapa and maka moena (woven matt), with modern materials, under the microscope.

Lesson 5 - Activities

Lesson 5 - Activities

TIME: 45 mins


Part 1: Stages of Kapa Production


Pics on CD:

-Wauke Bark

-Kapa after first beating

-After fermentation. The final product after beating and water marking the material a second time after fermentation.


Use the worksheet with images taken through the Bishop Museum 3D microscope. Have students look at and describe each picture. What differences can they see from the various stages of kapa production?

  1. Bark

  2. First beating

  3. Fermentation

  4. To the final product after beating the kapa again and water marking.


Part 2: Hawaii Kapa Vs Tonga Tapa Bark Cloth Comparison


Use the worksheet with images taken through the Bishop Museum 3D microscope. Have students look at and describe the picture of Tongan tapa and compare it with the Hawaiian kapa.


From their observations, discuss with students why they think kapa is so much stronger and softer. Discuss what fermentation is. Mention fermented foods students might be familiar with, such as yoghurt and vinegar.


Myth Busters Phone Book Strength Demonstration

By interweaving the pages of two phone books, friction prevents the books from being pulled apart. This demonstration has been seen on the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters."

Have students watch the following Mythbusters YouTube short, demonstrating the sheer strength of surface tension friction using a 2 phone books. Or alternatively, you can demonstrate this activity yourself using 2 phone books.

Ask students to remember how kapa and tapa are made; i.e., by beating the fibers together. It is an old process, probably thousands of years old. It is also called “felting”. Fibers are rough and they stick together. In making tapa, the Tongans beat the fibers with the pulpy mass overlapped in four or five layers at 90-degree angles and pound them together. It is then dried.


In contrast, in making kapa, the fibers are beaten, fermented and soaked in water (meaning the cellulose and fiber in the bark is broken down further) and then beaten again making a more intertwined, stronger and softer felting process and thus more surface area friction to offer resistance, JUST LIKE THE PHONEBOOKS.


This is why the Hawaiian kapa is some of the strongest in the world.



Part 3. Fabrics of the past and present


Students will draw, observe and compare numerous fabrics of today to the past.


Students will compare two fabrics of Hawaii, kapa and maka moena (woven matt), with modern materials such as cotton and felt under the microscope. They will discover that they really aren’t that different from each other.



Kapa (available from the Bishop Museum and other craft outlets)

Maka moena (woven matt)


Cotton fabric

Satin ribbon


Ask students to remember how kapa is made, by beating the fibers together. It is an old process, probably thousands of years old. It is also called “felting”. Fibers are rough and they stick together. It is different from woven fabrics that are made from thread or yarn.


In today’s fabrics we also find many examples of processes that are similar to the ones used to create kapa and maka moena (woven matt), including knits such as T-shirts. Knits are formed from interlocking loops.



Set up microscopes or magnifying glasses and samples of the following fabrics:


Cotton fabric

Satin ribbon


Using the worksheet, have the students draw and compare modern fabrics to kapa and maka moena.


Look at the different fabrics and identify them. Which fabrics of the present look the most like the Hawaiian fabrics of the past through the microscope?


When students are finished, go over the answers with them and discuss the qualities and similarities of each type.

Lesson 5: Kapa, Hawaiian Super Cloth!

Lesson 6 - Gel Cells: Modeling the Difference between a Plant and Animal Cell

Lesson 6 - Gel Cells: Modeling the Difference between a Plant and Animal Cell

What's so special about wauke cells?



Students make 3D models of a typical plant and animal cell. Students will then play a game of Attack of the Giant Cell reviewing the “jobs” of the organelles that most cells contain. As a result, students will understand the special properties of the wauke cell that explain why it is a perfect material for making bark cloth.



Plant and animals cells contain many of the same organelles and have similar structures, with some key difference (rigid cell wall, chloroplasts, etc). These differences are very important in the functioning of plants and animals.


People learned to let nature help them do their work, such as fermentation in kapa making. By letting the kapa ferment in water over time, the kapa was much finer and softer than when it wasn’t fermented.


Students will also learn the special properties of the wauke cell that explain why it is a perfect material for making bark cloth.



The cell is the structural and functional unit of all living organisms, and is sometimes called the building block of life. Some organisms, such as bacteria, are unicellular (consist of a single cell). Other organisms, such as humans, are muliticellular. (humans have an estimated 100 trillion cells or !0 4 cells). A typical cell size is 10 um; a typical cell mass is 1 nanogram. The largest known cell is an ostrich egg. For comparison, 10 um (10 micrometers, also called “microns”) is equal to 1/100 millimeters. So, if you stacked up 100 typical cells it would only be one milometer in height. Check that on your ruler. And it would take one million of these typical cells to equal one gram; one gram is about what a thumbtack weighs.


The cell theory, first developed in 1839 by Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells. All cells come from pre-existing cells. Vital functions of an organism begin within cells, and all cells contain hereditary information necessary for regulating cell functions and for transmitting information to the next generation of cells.


The word "cell" comes from the latin cellula, a small room. The name was chosen by Robert Hooke when he compared the cork cells he saw to the small rooms monks lived in.


Each cell is at least somewhat self-contained and self-maintaining: it can take in nutrients, convert these nutrients into energy, carry out specialized functions, and reproduce as necessary. Each cell stores its own set of instructions for carrying out each of these activities.


Plants and animal cells share many characteristics, but there are a few very important differences. These differences are reflected in the very different functioning of these two types of organisms. Remember the food web? Plants are primary producers and animals are consumers. Plants have chloroplasts that allow them to make food from sunlight and air. Animals do not have chloroplasts; therefore they must eat plants and other animals to survive.


Another obvious difference is that most animals can move about while plants are normally sessile; that is, they are fixed to the ground by their roots. That is because plants have rigid cell walls which help them stand up and have structure, but keep them from moving. Animals don’t have rigid cell walls; instead they have a skeleton of many bones connected by movable muscles and ligaments.


The student exercises will cover many of the basic organelles, but there are others that are not covered in this lesson.

Lesson 6 - Activities

Lesson 6 - Activities

TIME: 45-75 mins


Part 1: Gel Cells - Modeling the Difference between a Plant and Animal Cell


The Organelle Game using Pictionary


Make enough gel cells so each students can make a plant and an animal cell. See attached sheet that lists the most important organelles found in the average cell.



Data sheet

The materials used can be everyday household objects. For example:

Rigid cell wall= small plastic, see-though box (try Long's Drugs)

Plasma membrane = plastic bag; for plants it can be cut to fit inside the rigid cell wall box

Vacuole= small water balloon

Chloroplast=flat, green marbles (try Ben Franklin store)

Nucleus= large marble or small rubber ball

Smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER) = smooth stain ribbon

Ribosomes and rough endoplasmic reticulum (ER) = ribbon with side loops

Mitochondrion = plastic beads

Golgi complex = spongy hair rollers cut into discs

Plasmodesma = small wooden spools (craft store)

Lysosomes = beads

Cytoplasm = clear hair gel (about 4 oz for each cell)

Glue necessary to attach plasmodesma (spool)

CD picture of Plant and Animal Cell



Explain cells and their contents (organelles, just as our bodies have organs). Cells are building blocks of animals and plants. Where did the word "cell come" from? They looked like monks' cells to Robert Hooke. They were discovered as microscopes were invented and improved in the 1800’s.


Point out some of the major differences between plant and animal cells, such as the fact that plants have RIGID CELL WALLS, CHLOROPLASTS, and PLASMODESMA. These organelles help plants stand up (they don’t have bones), make food (they can photosynthesize, or make food from sun and air, unlike animals), and the plasmodesma helps the cells exchange matter through the rigid cell walls. Show pictures of animal and plant cells included on the CD.


Have materials laid out in containers or bags with labels, give student the sheet of cell features and have them make one plant and one animal cell, making sure they circle each organelle as they add it. Have some glue on hand so they can glue the plasmodesma onto the outside of their plant cell. When they are done have them line up and have an adult squeeze in the gel (cytoplasm).



When they are all finished, go over the organelles, and reasons that there are differences between plants and animals. Follow this with a game of Organelle Pictionary (with help from their now completed data sheet) to help solidify organelle names and their purpose.


Part 2: The Wauke Cell – What’s so great about it?



Long piece of elastic



Next, bring the activity back to the special features of the wauke inner bark cells, called BAST fibers. Have students look at the plant cell they made. Let them know that if this were an “average” plant cell it would be less than 1/10 of a millimeter in thickness. So, for example, if you stacked up 10 or more of these, they wouldn’t even be as thick as your fingernail. On the other hand, wauke cells are often about 10 mm long, so as wide as my hand. These wauke fibers are BAST fibres and are about 100 times longer than a regular plant cell.


As a demonstration take their plant cell model (if it is about 8 cms or 3” long) and use a long piece of elastic (8 meters or 26’) to show the relative size of a wauke fiber cell. Have a student grasp one end and another stretch it out. Also note that it is more flexible than your average plant cell, making it excellent to use as fabric as it can stretch and is not so rigid.


Lesson 6: Gel Cells

Lesson 7 - Positive and Negative Space; Kapa Dying and Printing: It isn't always Black and White

Lesson 7 - Positive and Negative Space; Kapa Dying and Printing: It isn't always Black and White


Students learn about positive and negative space in art. Using the techniques of leaf sun prints, students will see that which is positive and which is negative isn’t always straightforward.


Students will then learn about the Hawaiian bamboo stamps or “’ohe kapala” that were used to print kapa. The stamps created patterns that resulted in positive and negative space in a unique way. Students will also learn about making dyes from plants and other natural items.



Positive space is the subject of a piece of art and negative is the area around it. This notion needs examining in terms of subject vs. background and dark vs. light. In traditional Hawaiian arts, there is not always a clear distinction between subject or background.


Students will use the natural dyes and faux ‘ohe kapala to print and dye their kapa.



On positive and negative space (the following definitions are taken from; click on each highlighted word for the link)

Positive space - Space in an artwork that is positive — filled with something, such as lines, designs, color, or shapes. The opposite of negative space.


Orange shapes occupy positive spaces in this image, while negative spaces between the orange shapes form triangles, or a six-pointed star.

Violet shapes occupy positive spaces, but a negative space between them forms a square.

Green shapes occupy largely positive spaces, but negative spaces within and between them might be seen to form a cube.

Negative Space - Empty space in an artwork, a void.

That's the usual definition.

To some people, the term "negative" suggests unpleasant things; sometimes when we say "negative" we mean "bad."

Both "space" and "emptiness" suggest a lack, a shortage of something. This is unfortunate. The concept of negative space is one that deserves to be highly prized. In Japanese art tradition, what we call negative space is called ma. Relevant in every Japanese art form, from sumi-e to ikebana, ma is considered a particularly valuable sort of space, not seen as negative or empty.


Henry Moore (English, 1898-1986), sculpture, bronze, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. See English art.

Dame Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975), Two Figures (Menhirs), 1964, slate, 82.5 x 63.8 x 32.0 cm, Tate Gallery, London. See feminism and feminist art and menhir.

Schomer Lichtner (American, 1905-2006), Butterfly, 1975, serigraph. The shape of a white butterfly is in a negative space. Look between areas of black fur. Living in Wisconsin, Lichtner was renowned for paintings of ballerinas and dairy cows and his regionalist murals. See acrylic paints and New Deal art.

Space and shape, two of the elements of design, work together to form a finished work of art. There are two kinds of space: positive and negative. Positive spaces are those occupied by the main subjects of the work. The negative spaces are the areas around and behind the positive spaces. Negative space can also be referred to as the background.

It is no mystery that the shapes of positive spaces are determined by the shapes of the main subjects of the work. However, negative spaces have shapes as well. If one removes the subjects from a work, the negative spaces are left with a blank in the shapes of the parts removed. Therefore, the shapes of the negative spaces are determined by the shapes of the positive spaces.

Sun Print Paper: (

How does it work?

The nature print paper is coated with light-sensitive chemicals, which react to light waves and particles when exposed to light. When you place objects on the paper, they block the light and turn white while the paper around them remains blue. Water stops the process and fixes your images on the paper.

What does it teach?

Learn about the nature of sunlight and how light-sensitive chemicals work. From here, launch a discussion about how color photos are developed, as each layer of chemicals on the film reacts to photons of different color.

Lesson 7 - Activities

Lesson 7 - Activities

Part 1: Positive and Negative Space: Leaves on Sun Print Paper Experiment


Time: 30 minutes




-Sun print paper (online or locally at Hawaiian Craft Supply, King Street)

-Pieces of Plexiglas or other flat, clean plastic to cover sun print paper.


-Basins for water bath (must fit sun print paper inside and cover with water)

-Clothesline and clothespins



Set up for print making by cutting sheets of sun paper in half (while still in package). Take care not to expose the paper to light too much before hand.



The aim of this activity is to develop and promote an awareness of shape and space. First, discuss negative and positive space, and that it is common in Hawaiian art such as stamping and dying. Show some examples, like the classic vase vs. vase, butterfly people and Hawaiian pattern prints.


Step 1. Have students select a leaf.

Step 2. Put down a piece of cardboard, then the sun paper, then arrange the leaf or leaves as desired, and then cover with Plexiglas or other clear firm plastic. Take into bright sunlight for 2-5 minutes (refer to package).

Step 3. Remove paper and place in tub of water to stop the process (1 minute; check instructions)

Step 4. Hang out to dry and watch the changes!


Part 2: Positive and Negative Space: Paper Cut Out Art

(Modified from



- 9" × 12" sheets of construction paper of two contrasting colors per student





Set up for print making by cutting sheets of sun paper in half (while still in package). Take care not to expose the paper to light too much before hand.



This activity aims to develop and promote an awareness of shape and space. Again, discuss negative and positive space, and that it is common in Hawaiian art such as stamping and dying. Students will create an original visual image using colored construction paper that will demonstrate that all spaces within a work of art have their own unique shapes.


Step 1. Select one color of construction paper and cut to 9" × 6". Distribute one color of 9" × 12" and the contrasting color of 9" × 6" construction paper to each student.

Step 2. Using the half sheet (9" × 6"), students draw and carefully cut out half of a picture or design along the 9" length.

Step 3. The full sheet (9" × 12") can be folded in half along the 9" length to determine the center of the sheet. The parts cut from the half sheet are arranged along the fold forming half the design. The remaining parts are placed on the opposite side of the full sheet in locations opposite those from which they were cut. Glue the parts down.

Step 4. The final project will have a positive image on one side of the full sheet and a negative image on the other.

Step 5. An optional approach would be to "hinge" everything down the center using transparent tape. This will produce an image that is at first simply two contrasting vertical rectangles. When the design is "opened" the positive-negative images appear. Make sure you review each student's work to verify that all shapes have been placed symmetrically. Also check for craftsmanship, quality and neatness of line and fill.

Step 6. Encourage the students to do another more traditional Hawaiian design. There is no need to make too many different shapes. Students can mix and match, but try to get them to think of possible positive/negative designs that will result when they repeat the pattern along the page. Have them practice by sketching on scratch paper ahead of time. Perhaps their combination of design elements will also suggest a more complex, abstract design.


Part 3: Kapa dying and printing

Note—this activity can be configured a few ways. One lesson can be about making dyes that are then painted on the kapa and allowed to dry. Another lesson can be about making the stamps and printing the kapa using tempura or acrylic paint. If it is all done at the same time, the dyes should be pre-made. However, dying and printing cannot be done at the same time unless the kapa is dyed on one half and printed on the other. This will prevent bleeding or corrupting of colors. You will need a helper to undertake this activity.


Part 3a: Kapa Printing


Time: 90 minutes



-dried kapa (this can be purchased from Bishop Museum and other craft outlets)

For ‘ohe kapala stamps:

-wide popsicle sticks

-self adhesive foam shapes


-tempura or acrylic paint

-practice scratch paper, 8.5 x 11" paper for their paper kite

-1" wide foam brushes



Step 1. Group students around tables with materials in center. Show them patterns from traditional bamboo ‘ohe kapala stamps or simplified shapes and patterns. Encourage them to think in geometric terms, lines, squares, triangles etc. Also point out that these sticks will be used to create a pattern that may make 5, 10 or 100 impressions to create a bigger pattern, and students are not trying to make pictures on the stamp.

Step 2. Have students create a pattern on a popsicle stick using the self stick foam shapes. Time and materials permitting, they can make two.

Step 3. Because the focus is on creating patterns, it is a good idea to limit the number of colors placed out. Using the foam brush, instruct students that they need only use a small amount of paint, just enough to cover the foam stamp. Give students scratch paper to practice technique. To stamp, lay the stamp on the paper, press evenly and lift straight up to prevent smudging. To get impressions similar to Hawaiian kapa designs, print again, laying the stamp adjoining the first pattern. Repeat. If time permits, allow students to exchange stamps with one another. Have students print on their kite paper and then on their kapa.

Step 4. Allow kapa and paper to dry.


Part 3b: Kapa Dying

This activity can link to art and science by discussing how people used to make colors for clothing. Students can bring plants into class that they think will make colors. Using a cup of water and a microwave oven, many plant parts (flowers, bark, leaves, roots) will become dyes in the hot water. Other items may be used as well, such as earth, coffee, tea, grape juice. Some store bought spices such as turmeric and paprika, when mixed with water, will make good colors. If you don’t have students bring in the dyes, pre-make them yourself and bring them to class. Because dyes are very thin, they are not suitable for using with stamps. You will need a helper to undertake this activity.


Time: 60-90 minutes depending on activity



-dried kapa

-dyes or dye materials

-paint brushes or if you can find dried seed pods from the hala tree, these can be used as paint brushes

-containers for dyes




Step 1. Dried kapa will be stiff like rough paper or cardboard. Soften it by rolling and unrolling and crumpling.

Step 2. If you use the hala seed brushes, let students know that they hold a lot of dye so after dipping the brush in the color, they need to shake out the excess. Dyes will not necessarily darken with more applied dye unless the kapa is dried in between applications. Discuss with students the differences between natural dyes and store paints, i.e. muted colors, steps and difficulty to gather and make them, different viscosity, etc.

Step 3. Paint kapa and set out to dry. When kapa is dried, stamping can be done with paints over the dyed part. If stamping was done first, dyes can be brushed over the paint. This is probably more suitable if acrylic paints were used.

Lesson 7: Positive and Negative Space

Lesson 8 - Capturing the Wind: Maui Makes a Kite

Lesson 8 - Capturing the Wind: Maui Makes a Kite


Although ancient Hawaiians made kites from their kapa, the kapa had to be a certain size and quality to become a good kite. Making kapa like this is not always possible within the constraints of class time. If you were able to make kapa with your students, discuss with them the work it took to make their kapa and to remind them of how important kapa was in Hawaiian culture, and that people who made kapa did it their entire lives. Student kapa work should be displayed in the classroom. Tell students that kites were another important part of Hawaiian culture and that they will make a simple kite in class using a regular piece of paper, a plastic bag, a straw or barbecue skewer, and some tape.



Maui used his kite to test the strength of the winds. Ancient Hawaiians and Polynesians used kites for play as well as sport, such as kite fighting. Long ago when there were no televisions or iPods, people made their own forms of entertainment out of the things that were close at hand and familiar.

Lesson 8 - Activities

Lesson 8 - Activities

Each team of students will construct a kite from items in the classroom.


Part 1: Making A Kite


Time: 30 minutes



-8.5 x 11" paper

-straw or bamboo barbecue meat skewer

-plastic shopping bag or roll of surveyors' flagging tape

-1 roll of string, at least 200’, 6 to 10' per child

-piece of 1 x 3 cardboard to wrap string around



-hole punch


You might need a helper to undertake this activity. See the directions at the following web site: (site has printable instructions, see “20 kids, 20 kites, 20 minutes”.)

Take kites out to fly.



Have students think back to the story of Maui the Kite Flyer (see the third page of this Learning Center). Reread it if necessary.

  • How did he forecast the wind with his kite?
  • When flying your kite, did you face the kite into the wind or away?
  • What did you learn from flying your kite. For instance, was the wind from the south or north? (Winds from the south are generally Kona or can be storm systems, winds from north are usually trades).
  • What time of year is it? What kind of winds and weather do you expect this time of year in Hawaii? (There are more trade winds in summer, Kona winds and storm systems from the south in winter.)
  • What do scientists today use to forecast weather? (Weather balloons, satellites)
  • How do you think climate change might impact Hawaii’s weather and climate?

Lesson 8: Capturing the Wind

Academic Standards and Benchmarks

Academic Standards and Benchmarks

Standards for Lesson 1

Social Studies Benchmarks:

SS.4.3.1 Explain the origins and cultures of early Hawaiians.

SS.4.3.2 Describe a typical day in the economic life of a Hawaiian in the ahupua‘a system (role of kapa making).

SS.4.6.1 Explain how language, traditional lore, music, dance, artifacts, traditional practices, beliefs, values, and behaviors are elements of culture and contribute to the preservation of culture.

Science Benchmarks:

4.8.3 Earth in the Solar System. Describe the relationship between the Sun and the earth’s daily rotation and annual revolution.

Fine Arts Benchmarks:

FA.4.1.4. Explain how art reflects life, culture, attitude, and beliefs of the artist (e.g. Hawaiian Culture).


Standards for Lesson 2

Social Studies Benchmarks:

SS.4.3.2 Describe a typical day in the economic life of a Hawaiian in the ahupua‘a system (role of kapa making).

Fine Arts Benchmarks:

FA4.1.1 Use the elements of principles of art and design to communicate an idea or mood (emphasis, proportion, complementary colors, positive/negative space, depth)

FA.4.1.4. Explain how art reflects life, culture, attitude, and beliefs of the artist (e.g. Hawaiian Culture)

Science Benchmarks:

S.4.1.1. Scientific inquiry (describe a testable hypothesis and an experimental procedure)


Standards for Lesson 3

Social Studies Benchmarks:

SS.4.3.2 Describe a typical day in the economic life of a Hawaiian in the ahupua‘a system (role of kapa making).

Fine Arts Benchmarks:

FA4.1.1 Use the elements of principles of art and design to communicate an idea or mood (emphasis, proportion, complementary colors, positive/negative space, depth)

FA.4.1.4. Explain how art reflects life, culture, attitude, and beliefs of the artist (e.g. Hawaiian Culture)

Science Benchmarks:

S.4.1.1. Scientific inquiry (describe a testable hypothesis and an experimental procedure)


Standards for Lesson 4

Science Benchmarks

SC4.3.1 Explain how simple food chains and food webs can be traced back to plants

SC.4.5.2 Describe the roles (producers, decomposers, consumers) of various organisms that inhabit the same environment

SAC4.3.2 Describe how an organism’s behavior is affected by its environment.

SC 4.5.3 Describe how different organisms need specific environmental conditions to survive

Fine Arts Benchmarks

FA4.1.1 Use the elements and principles of art and design to communicate and idea or mood (emphasis, proportion, complementary colors, positive/negative space, depth).


Standards for Lesson 5


Social Studies Benchmarks:

SS.4.3.2 Describe a typical day in the economic life of a Hawaiian in the ahupua‘a system (role of kapa making).

Fine Arts Benchmarks:

FA.4.1.4. Explain how art reflects life, culture, attitude, and beliefs of the artist (e.g. Hawaiian Culture)

Science Benchmarks:

S.4.1.1. Scientific inquiry (describe a testable hypothesis and an experimental procedure)


Standards for Lesson 6


Science Benchmarks:

SC.4.4.1 Identify the basic differences between plant cells and animal cells.


Standards for Lesson 7


Fine Arts Benchmarks (in visual arts):

FA.4.1.1 Use elements and principles of art and design, such as emphasis, proportion, complementary colors, positive and negative space, and depth, to communicate an idea or mood.

FA.4.1.4 Explain how art reflects life, culture, attitudes, and beliefs of the artist.


Standards for Lesson 8


SS 4.2.1. Cultural Systems and Practices

Many cultures around the world used kites for fun, recreation and competition.

C&T 4.2.2. Personal Skills and Interests/ Identify ways that hobbies, personal interests, and strengths may lead to a career interest, i.e. kapa making, Hawaiian culture, kite making, graphic artist.

Health 3-5.1.3. Healthy Eating and Physical activity.



In order of their use in this Learning Center:

Holt Science and Technology, Earth Science, Teacher Edition, Chapter 15 – The Atmosphere, Chapter 16 – The Atmosphere, Section 1 Understanding Weather.


Suelyn Ching Tune, How Maui Slowed the Sun, Kolowalu Book (Hardcover)


Beckwith, Martha. Myths and Legends of Hawaii


Kapa Curriculum Book (May be purchased from the Cultural Learning Center at Ka`ala, 696-4954)
Ho'olono's Website of Hawaiian nature and culture with information about chants, plants, and animals


Gainer, Ruth Straus and Julia S. Child (1986) "Scientific Illustration for the Elementary School" in Art Education, Vol. 39, No. 6:19-22.


Abbott, Isabella A.1992 La'au Hawai'i: Traditional Hawaiian Use of Plants. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.


Handy, E. S. Craighill, and Elizabeth Green Handy, with Mary Kawena Pukui, 1972. Native Planters in Old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore, and Environment. Bishop Museum Bulletin 233. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.

Kamakau, Samuel Manaiakalani, 1964. Ka Po'e Kahiko: The People of Old. Translated by Mary Kawena Pukui, edited by Dorothy B. Barrère. Bishop Museum Special Publication 51. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.

Kamakau, Samuel Manaiakalani, 1976. The Works of the People of Old. Bishop Museum Special Publication 61. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.

Kamakau, Samuel Manaiakalani, 1991. Tales and Traditions of the People of Old: Na Mo'olelo a ka Po'e Kahiko. Translated by Mary Kawena Pukui, edited by Dorothy B. Barrère. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.

Kamehameha Schools, 1994. Life in Early Hawai'i: The Ahupua'a, 3rd edition. Kamehameha Schools Press, Honolulu.


Krauss, Beatrice, 1993. Plants in Hawaiian Culture. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.


Malo, David, 1951 [1898]. Hawaiian Antiquities (Moolelo Hawaii). Translated by Nathaniel B. Emerson. Bishop Museum Special Publication 2, 2d ed. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.


Mitchell, Donald D. Kilolani, 1992. Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture, revised edition. Kamehameha Schools Press, Honolulu.


Pang, Benton, 1992. The Identification of Plant Fibers in Hawaiian Kapa: From Ethnobotany to Botany. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Hawaii Botany Department. Bishop Museum Ethnobotany webpage
Dr. Dave Webb's University of Hawaii Ethnobotany Webpage with information and images of Hawaiian plants used in traditional Hawaiian culture
Ho'olono's Website of Hawaiian nature and culture with information about chants, plants, and animals
Dr. Warren L. Wagner's Smithsonian botanical Webpage with Pacific plant images
Kapi'olani Community College's Webpage on the Ahupua'a and Native Plants
County of Honolulu's Information on local Botanical Gardens
Dr. Isabella Abbott's UH Webpage
Dr. Will McClatchey, University of Hawaii Ethnobotanist's Webpage
Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi
24 Canoe Plants of Hawaii
University of Hawaii's Native Plant List


Keller, Rebecca (2005) Real Science–4–kids, Biology Level 1. Gravitas Publications, Albuquerque.