Learning from the Past, Designing our Future: Conservation of Hawaii’s Watersheds and Freshwater Resources

This two part integrated multicultural unit is designed for use with 11th-12th graders. Part 1 (4 weeks): students learn about watersheds and aquifer systems via exploration of connections between healthy native ecosystems and clean water in the context of the loko i’a system and their school greenhouse. Part 2 (4 weeks): students will learn the process of design thinking and engage in an engineering design challenge related to sustainable water use on their school campus.

Standards Aligned

Next Generation Science Standards, Social Studies (C3), Common Core Math, Common Core ELA, Na Hapena A'o

Community Partner(s)

As a class, they will have the opportunity to work with Mālama O Honokea, a non-profit education group, to study the loko i’a system and help with restoration efforts at Honokea loko i’a in Keaukaha, Hilo. Honokea and the surrounding recreational areas have been constantly subjected to natural disasters, waste spills, pollution, and varied land-use practices. Efforts to reclaim the loko i’a currently exist through partnerships between volunteers, community educators, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Essential Question

How can scientific, traditional, and community-based approaches be used to protect watersheds, conserve freshwater resources, and help to design innovative solutions for sustainability in Hawai’i?

Enduring Understanding

  • Watersheds and their associated aquifers are complex and dynamic systems that are an important source of clean freshwater which society depends on.
  • Water is considered a prized and sacred resource in many cultures, especially in Hawaiian culture. Preserving sources of freshwater, a limited resource, is of high importance for maintaining productive and sustainable food systems (e.g., loko i’a, plant agriculture, greenhouse operations). Freshwater conservation is a critical practice for all people and places.
  • Place-specific community management is an important part of restoring and monitoring the health of loko i’a.
  • Design thinking can help people to be more creative and to produce innovative and meaningful solutions to meet the needs of real people.

Learner Level High School

Primary Content Science, Indigenous Knowledge, Engineering