Here we go, then!
1. Geography and Culture
The goals for this unit were to memorize the location of Hawaii on a world map; to memorize its capital, flag, and state symbols; to experience its native language; and to explore some of its major cultural components.
A. map of Hawaii
I printed out a giant map of Hawaii from Megamaps, and taped it together for the kids. They then painted the ocean and labeled the eight major islands:
I put their map on the wall and we used it for daily memory work to help the kids memorize the islands. It's still there, actually. I should probably take it down sometime...
When we read about any interesting geographical feature of Hawaii, or made plans to visit some place such as Ka Lae, the southernmost point of the United States, I had the kids mark and label that site on the map. I think it helped orient them somewhat during our visit.
Since we were actually visiting Hawaii, I had the children look through several guidebooks to see what they wanted to visit. They actually enjoyed this activity more, however, when we were in Hawaii--how fun to look through a guidebook, point to something, say, "I want to go there!", and have the
We used these geography resources:
B. Hawaii state symbols
I had the children memorize Hawaii's capital, and I printed this Hawaii state symbols coloring page for them to complete, although I had them research images of each of the symbols to get the colors correct, not just rely on the printed legend. And yes, we had to look up the pronunciation for many of the Hawaiian things that we studied! Here's how to pronounce the name of Hawaii's state bird.
In the process of this research, Will became very interested in the Hawaii state capitol building. We'd have gone to visit if it had been in session, because Will really wanted to see the representatives wearing Hawaiian shirts! The state capitol building's web site does have some activity books for children, although we didn't use them.
C. Hawaiian language
I wanted the kids to understand that Hawaii has its own native language, one that is still very much alive on the islands, and I also wanted the kids to have a go at learning some words and phrases. To that end, they both spent several weeks working daily through the first lessons in Mango Languages: Hawaiian. I won't go so far as to claim that they're in any way conversational, but it was an excellent way to get them to immerse themselves in Hawaiian writing and pronunciation. Here they are practicing!
I also wanted the kids to hear traditional Hawaiian music. I have a free account on Spotify, and I used it to let the kids listen to loads of Hawaiian music. Here's my Hawaii playlist with our favorite Hawaii-themed songs. This song, in particular, is the telling of the Hawaiian creation myth that we saw in the Bishop Museum.
Here's another resource that we used for the Hawaiian language:
D. Hawaiian culture
I knew that the kids were going to see some really inauthentic, touristy versions of Hawaiian culture on our trip, and that's fine, because those are iconic parts of a Hawaiian vacation, but I wanted the kids to also have an understanding of real Hawaiian culture and its value to the Hawaiian people.
To begin a study on hula, we found this intro video to be helpful. We then spent most of one morning watching YouTube videos from the Merrie Monarch festival, the world's premier hula dancing competition. Make sure that you watch performances by both women's groups and men's groups! We also did these hula tutorial videos together, and although Syd, surprisingly, did NOT enjoy them and in fact left the room in a strop, Will, surprisingly, LOVED them and happily danced along with me. This was actually really great, because there was a hula tutorial at our luau in Hawaii, and Will happily jumped right in, with the background knowledge that she likes doing the hula! If you're not planning to visit Hawaii, an excellent enrichment activity would be having the kids help plan an at-home luau, complete with roasted pork and hula dancing.
We discussed some of the iconic foods of Hawaii, but since we planned to go there and eat the real deal--sushi! Spam! shave ice!--I didn't bother with having us make any of our own versions at home. If you don't plan a visit, though, it would certainly be worth the experimentation. You could make sushi, play with recipes that include Spam, learn about macaroni salad, or make your own shave ice. Do NOT forget the snow cap!
Kona Coffee is a huge deal on the Big Island. We toured Greenwell Farms during our trip, and I highly recommend it, but their website also has some great educational videos on coffee farming. Good enrichment activities for that would be teaching the kids how to grind coffee beans and make you a delicious cup of coffee, or making several different varieties of homemade hot chocolate and having a hot chocolate tasting similar to what's done with coffee varieties, or baking a coffee cake or another treat that includes coffee as an ingredient.
We used these resources for Hawaiian culture. You'll notice that some are for younger readers and some for older--although both of my kids still read picture books, you can assume that the younger chapter books are for Syd to read independently and the older ones for Will. As well, there are actually a series of Calvin Coconut titles, of which Syd read several.
2. Hawaiian history
The goals for this unit were to understand that Hawaii has a vast pre-colonial history, to understand that it was colonized and its sovereign government overthrown by the United States, and to understand its iconic role in World War 2. If I'd known how interesting it would be, I would have had the kids learn more about the Polynesians before our visit, since they're the people who originally colonized Hawaii, but fortunately we learned a lot about them during our trip. We also didn't cover Captain Cook, although his story is interesting, too. Here's a little more about him.
A. Hawaiian monarchy
Unfortunately, this subject was difficult to find ample resources for outside of Hawaii, although once we were there we really did find ourselves immersed in the history of Hawaii's monarchy and were able to explore some wonderful places important to the monarchy and see some beautiful treasures.
I printed out this large infographic of Hawaii's monarchs and had the children put it on the wall under our map for easy reference. I also tried to get the kids to watch this American Experience episode on Hawaii's last queen, but it was super dry and didn't hold their interest. Matt and I later watched it by ourselves, and it hardly held my interest, either, but I wanted the information so I muscled through.
We used these resources on the Hawaiian monarchy:
B. Pearl Harbor
We actually incorporated this lesson into our larger study of World War 2, so you'll want to add in your own pre- and post-Pearl Harbor context to this lesson.
I wanted the kids to understand the logistics of the attack, of course, but I also wanted them to be able to visualize it, because that's how they'll remember. Much of our study took place at the actual Valor in the Pacific National Park, where the kids earned Junior Ranger badges and we took at ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial. Will, especially, also really loved the Pacific Aviation Museum, and I appreciated being able to see some of the actual aircraft models used at Pearl Harbor and Midway. Both of these places have excellent online presences, as well. The kids didn't enjoy Tora! Tora! Tora! enough to watch the entire thing, but they did watch the Pearl Harbor attack, and it's a really, really accurate version.
Here are the resources that we used to study Pearl Harbor. In particular, all three of us adored Under the Blood-Red Sun--we listened to it on audiobook in the car, and the entire family was riveted.
The goal for this unit was to give the children a good working knowledge of the science and geology of volcanoes. We've studied volcanoes before, so if you haven't, you may need to spend more time on basic information before going into these deeper studies. Our underwater volcano demonstration works particularly well, as this is how the Hawaiian islands were formed.
The kids watched BrainPop videos on volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunami, taking the quizzes and completing the accompanying worksheets. Will and I used my DIY bendy yarn to mark the location of the Ring of Fire on our big world wall map, even though Hawaii's volcanoes are actually not due to the Ring of Fire.
The kids did most of their study of Hawaii's volcanoes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park while completing their Junior Ranger program, but we did spend time looking at all of the volcano webcams in the park before we left.
Here are the resources that we used to study volcanoes. You'll also see some resources on earthquakes and tsunami here:
4. Wildlife and botany
I had each of the kids spend a few school lessons looking up native Hawaiian plant or animal species and creating infographics about them using Piktochart. I also had Will read this biography of the monk seal KP2. I thought that it might be too dry for her, but she actually loved it, and when we looked up KP2's home, the Waikiki Aquarium, we saw that there's a webcam of him! We still watch KP2 sometimes!
Other interesting science topics to explore would be salt water, sharks, and whales.
Okay, that was not a very coherent round-up, sorry. One of the projects that I'm trying to think through at the moment is writing up actual unit studies, including books lists and links to free resources, lesson plans and project tutorials, etc., and putting them for sale, perhaps on a site like Teachers Pay Teachers. I spend so much time and effort making these studies that it would certainly be a happy benefit if others wanted to buy them and save themselves the equivalent time--I just have to figure out how to make my write-ups make sense to other humans, first!