The Science and Culture of Art - Maui the Kitemaker

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.