The Art of Ethnobotany

The Art of Ethnobotany

This unit is an exploration of the native uses and traditional propagation techniques of Hawaiian plants. Students learn that through many generations, people survived without any stores because they grew what they needed for food, clothes, and tools. This unit focuses on art objects made with plants, such as ipu pawehe (gourd carving and decorating). The students plant seeds for future projects at the school and make plant journals which illustrate the legends related to the plants and useful information about certain Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian food plants. Through this project, they learn that gardening is an art, and out of gardening many arts are derived. The long-term goal of this project is to create a living lab of natural plants for future projects in Art, Science, Social Studies, and Literacy.

Grade 5
Content Area Language Arts
Key Benchmark LA 5.4.1: Write in a variety of formats for a variety of purposes and audiences, such as pieces to reflect on learning.

Art Form Hawaiian Cultural Arts
Art Benchmark FA 5.1.5: Analyze works of art from selected historical periods
School Year 2008-2009
Artist Momi Subiono
Unit Plan

GLO #2 - Community Contributor

Lesson Plans

LP 1 Kalo

Students learn the traditions, legends, and science behind growing the kalo. They are introduced to scientific words such as photosynthesis. They begin making plant journals and take notes on the different uses of the kalo. They plant kalo, sweet potatoes, and Hawaiian yams, learning several traditional Hawaiian planting techniques.

LP 2 Poi

Students pound and taste poi, learning that it is also used topically as medicine. They plant shampoo ginger and Chinese ginger and learn the medicinal properties of gingers. Time is spent weeding and watering the garden. They also plant non-native food plants including papaya, strawberrries, and mint.

LP 3 Seedsploration

Students clean and soak native seeds and plant them in pots. These plants will be put into the garden in the future. Science words for this lesson include: adaptive radiation, pollination, extinct, and endangered. They learn about the art of ipu pawehe and the legend of the people of Kamaoa who feel they are descendents of the ipu. They learn the story-telling tradition of the Hawaiian people.

LP 4 Making Kapa

Students see and participate in the various steps in the art of making kapa, the cloth used in ancient Hawaii. Each student receives a small piece of the kapa that the class makes.

Additional Photos for "The Art of Ethnobotany "

Click on a photo to see the enlargement.
Planting taro seedlings
Kalo (taro)
Pounding poi
A student checks out fresh poi
Student notes on making poi
A student holds seed separated from a plant
Students study information about various seeds and the plants they come from
Example of ipu pawehe—the art of decorating gourds
Kumu shows a finished piece of kapa
Pounding wauke
A student tries pounding wauke
Pounded piece of wauke