Welina Mānoa

Waikīkī Aquarium (Lesson Plan)

Waikīkī Aquarium

English Language Tour

Values that we will highlight throughout the visit: Kuleana, Laulima, Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama, Maiau, Maʻemaʻe.  Connect these values to the importance of moʻokūʻauhao, moʻolelo, and the student’s connection to context/place (kanaka-ʻāina).

The Learning Inquiry

At the Waikīkī Aquarium, we ask our 4th/5th graders to begin to inquire and to learn about “change over time.” That is, what changes took place over time? Why? How? And, what has been the impact on land, sea, and people/family? To do this, the visit introduces moʻolelo of the place and the fish of that place from kūpuna and cultural experts, utilizes photos, and introduces fishing/ocean implements.

Five species are highlighted in the mo‘olelo by kūpuna and mākua who frequented Waikīkī. These include: 

‘A‘ama crab
Limu Līpoa

There are many fishing implements that our kūpuna used, some of which are still used today in some form or fashion. Many of those implements are listed below and we suggest that there be time taken for the students to identify which they might be familiar with. Our curriculum highlights those bolded below:

A‘u/aʻu kū | Hīna‘i hinālea | Ihe | ‘Ili manō/Sharksin | Ipu wai | Kiholo | Ko‘a (cauliflower coral) |Leho he‘e/lū heʻe |Leio manō | Makau | Niho ‘oki | Pāhi aku | Papa niho ʻō manō/Shark Jaw | Pū‘ole | Wili | ‘Upena

 The overarching values are highlighted when talking about the species found in Waikīkī and the implements used.

Preparing Students for the Visit

  1. View, share, and explore with students the Waikīkī Aquarium website.
  2. Ask students to think about how they/their families/community mālama their near shore coastline, the ocean ecosystem.
  3. Show the class the video, “Waikīkī Then and Now.” Ask students how the place has changed over time. Ask the students how their “home” place has changed over time.
  4. Ask students to gather stories about fishing and food over time, mālama kai, from their family and friends. How has it changed from the time of their kūpuna, mākua, and today?
  5. Ask student to gather stories about the fish of their home over time.
  6. Teacher view the Aquarium resources: Hawaiians and the Sea.
  7. Teacher and students to review and become familiar with oli (chant) Ka Wai a Kāne (words in trifold). Divide students into six teams and have each team study their verse (6 verses in the oli), create a picture, and share with class. Then hang all 6 pieces of artwork in order of the verses they represent and use that as a visual tool to help students understand and review oli.

Site Tour


(By Aquarium host): In the front of Aquarium explain where they are, in the ‘ili of Kāneloa, at the foot of the Mānoa watershed, in the ahupua‘a of Waikīkī, in the moku of Kona, on the island of O‘ahu. Look up towards the valley and explain how these land areas are designated.


Provide students w/Field book & Pencils – Ask Pre-Tour questions
  1. Yes or No. Have you been to an aquarium before?
  2. If “Yes” please write or draw a picture of what aquarium you visited and what you liked about it. If “No” either write or draw what you would expect to see at an aquarium.
  3. When you heard that you were coming to the Waikīkī Aquarium what did you expect to see? List at least three things you would expect to see?
  4. And, what did you expect to do? List at least three things you would expect to do?
  5. What fish do you think lived in Waikīkī? Draw them if you know what they look like.
  6. What fish live in your home place? Draw those fish.
The first moʻolelo of this place, Waikīkī
    1. Listen to Kupuna Oliveira who talks about the different places in Waikīkī. The guide will translate for the students and at the same time, using the line drawing of the Waikīkī map, show the students the places she is describing. (The transcript is provided on the web.)
    2. Overview Aia i hea ka wai a Kāne? A brief overview of the oli is presented with information about its importance. Students will recite this oli when they are outside later in the tour. Ask students to keep in mind these different sources of water as they tour the Aquarium and look outside in Waikīkī.
    3. Reflection in Field book: Ask the students to either write or draw what Waikīkī might have looked like when Kupuna Oliveira was 9/10 years old.
The second moʻolelo of this place, Waikīkī
    1. Watch the video of the elder of the Cooke Family (Sam Cooke) talk about his great-grandfather who established the Waikīkī Aquarium.  The guide will use photos of Waikīkī from the early 1900’s and photos of the first aquarium. 
The third mo‘olelo of this place
    1. Watch the video of cultural practitioner ‘Umi Kai talk about the fish and fishing/ocean implements. Ask the students to pay attention to how these implements and fish may have changed (or not) over time. Ask the students to listen to ‘Umi Kai talking about how Waikīkī has changed over time. (Video here and transcript available here)
    2. Hand out the Welina Mānoa: Waikīkī Aquarium portfolio. Explain to students that this will be used for their activities today.


10:15 – 10:30am Everyone go outside on great lawn. Point out Waikīkī Beach and the Natatorium. Students recite Ka Wai a Kāne. This is an opportunity for students to become aware of the different sources of water they can identify from the vantage point of Waikīkī Beach.

ASSIGNMENT (explain to students):

  1. The Waikīkī Aquarium wants your help to integrate the fish of Waikīkī and Hawaiian fishing/ocean implements into their displays to tell a more complete story of Waikīkī. They also want you to think about how water sources are important to the health of the ocean and your beaches.
  2. Your challenge is to use the mo‘olelo you heard in the classroom and the ones in your portfolio to develop a display where you would tell the mo‘olelo of that part of the aquarium using the fish and implements you learned about or lessons from those mo‘olelo such as the connection between limu and fish, migratory patterns of fish, and introduction of exotic species. When planning the exhibit incorporate at least one or all of the values: Kuleana, Laulima, Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama, Maiau, Maʻemaʻe into your exhibit. For example, a value may have been used between the students in working together (laulima) while developing their exhibit or they might recognize how important it is to show how to mālama the ocean’s resources through the exhibit.
  3. Divide class into small groups of 4-5 students. Assign each team one “area” of the aquarium that they will need to create a display. Potential starting areas: Gallery 2 Hawaiian Marine Communities; Hunters on the Reef; Gallery 3 Diversity and Adaptations; Gallery 4 Fisheries and Conservation; Edge of the Reef (outdoor exhibit), Aquaculture Deck (moi exhibit).
  4. With a guide they will tour the aquarium exhibits, then return to focus on their particular area where they will work together to design the best exhibit to showcase their selected fish, implement(s), values and lessons. Guides/student groups will have photos of the implements to work with and their field books to draw and describe their exhibit.
  5. If time permits, groups can meet outside on the lawn and with large paper and crayon draw their new display/exhibit.
  6. At the end of the tour, each team presents their exhibit to the class and aquarium staff.


10:30-11:15am–Visit the Aquarium Exhibit with Adult Guide

  • Decide on where and how their implements could be displayed.
  • Develop a new exhibit.
  • Prepare presentation to class.

11:15am–Circle Presentation

Each Team presents their display to class and aquarium staff.

11:40am–Lunch & clean-up (bathrooms)


Field book activities to do after the tour

On the bus back to school, ask students to respond to the following questions in their field book (can be written and/or drawn expressions):

  1. What do you want other youth (4/5th graders) to learn when they see your new exhibit?
  2. What would you like to see or do more of at the aquarium and why?
  3. Describe one (1) change over time event. How has it impacted the land and ocean?
  4. Describe how one (1) fishing implement has or has not changed over time.
  5. Describe how one (1) fish has or has not changed over time.

POST Questions for teacher to engage with students

Focused on the fishing implements:
  1. What kind of research did those in kahiko times do to make these implements?
  2. What kind of research did Uncle ‘Umi do to make these implements?
  3. What function does this implement have in an exhibit?
  4. What materials are needed to make this tool/implement?
  5. Think about your knowledge of our kupuna. What might they have done to make sure that all the natural resources and materials needed to make these implements were available?
  6. Where can you find the materials used by our ancestors today? What contemporary material(s) might you use to make the implements today?
Focused questions on the fish:
  1. What observational skills did Uncle ‘Umi use to know about the fish in Waikīkī?
  2. What observational skills did you use to learn about the fish in the Aquarium?
  3. What are the connections between the different types of fish you learned about at the Aquarium?
Focused questions on the exhibits:
  1. As you planned your exhibit, how did your “implement” interact with the (a) marine life, (b) plant life, (c) ecosystem?
  2. How did you change your exhibit and why?
  3. What story did you want to tell through your exhibit?
  4. What lessons about traditional practices that help to mālama the ocean, the land, and our/kanaka health and well being did you want to teach through your exhibit?
Focused questions about the unity of life processes:
  1. Talk about the concept of the dynamics of the unity of life processes, i.e., diverse life forms relying on and linking to one another).
  2. Talk about the function of each part and how they are related to each other.
  3. Talk about what happens when one part of the system is destroyed/disappears.

This lesson plan can be found here

For additional resources, click here.

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