Āina- or Place- based curricula are effective tools for engaging students and making learning relevant. Studies show that place-based activities and education positively impact a young person’s socio-emotional wellbeing, which in turn has a positive impact on their experiences in what is known as “traditional” education. The ‘Āina-based approach to education is also culture-based education. For Hawaiians and many other people, culture is a direct reflection of the living environment from which the people grew. The ‘āina-based education approach increases Hawaiian cultural affiliation, civic engagement and stronger relationships between youth, teachers, families, and their communities (cf. Kana‘iaupuni, Ledward, Jensen 2010).

This initiative began in 2007, and in between the 2012-2013 to 2014-2015 school year a series of place-based curricula and classroom and field programs were developed through a grant from the US Dept. of Education-Native Hawaiian Education Act (No. S362A120007-12A). The purpose of this grant is to build on experiential education opportunities that have been developed, and carry the program on with various partners and sponsors. The program is designed to ensure that quality culture programs continue on Lāna‘i, and by expanding those programs to offer opportunities for organizations and individuals from other islands to engage in knowledge exchanges and mentoring opportunities with established professionals who demonstrate high levels of skills in documenting, promoting, creating, restoring and maintaining cultural heritage resources.

On April 13th, 30-participants met at Lāna‘i High & Elementary School to get acquainted with a new curriculum guide for the island of Lāna‘i.

Since 2007, The Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage has been engaged in sharing the bio-cultural legacy of Lāna‘i with island students, the community at large, and guests to the island. The first efforts in providing curriculum resource materials to Lāna‘i High & Elementary School (LHES) teachers was the result of a collaboration between Martha Haia Evans (then Vice Principal at the school), and Kepā Maly. In 2011 Lāna‘i CHC engaged in developing a funds to foster place-based/cultural literacy learning initiatives on Lāna‘i, and received a three-year grant through the U.S. Department of Education-Native Hawaiian Education Act to implement programs. At the close of the grant in 2015, and with the help of funding partners, Lāna‘i CHC continued offering cultural literacy programs and developing curricula resource documents.

In 2017, Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage Center received a grant covering two years from the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program-Hawai‘i, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Grant No. NA17NOS4730195), to develop project-based learning opportunities as a part of an initiative to restore Waia‘ōpae Loko I‘a (Fishpond). The initiative included development of curricula that integrated the natural and cultural history of Lāna‘i into learning experiences for LHES students. We are committed to programs that promote awareness of the natural and cultural history of Lāna‘i and to preparing future generations of students to become leaders in island stewardship.


This program, also supported by our partners, including Pacific American Foundation (PAF), Pūlama Lāna‘i, NOAA B-WET, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Honua Consulting, Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA) and Lāna‘i High & Elementary School can be proud of the accomplishments to date in continuing to nurture and more importantly, provide innovative educational opportunities to inspire generations now and in the future. Shelly Kaleialoha Preza is leading the program on behalf of the Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage Center.


Curriculum expertise—funded through Honua Consulting—was shared by the Pacific American Foundation, which organized the “Aloha ‘Āina ‘o Lāna‘i Curricula.” The PAF cohort developed their original Kāhea Loko (Call of the Pond) and the Aloha ‘Āina curricula in 2000 and 2003. These curricula are meant to be a seed or a catalyst for others throughout the Hawaiian archipelago to nurture, enrich, and add to the ‘ike Hawai‘i (Hawaiian knowledge) pertaining to the ancient Hawaiian loko i‘a (fishpond) and ahupua‘a (traditional Hawaiian land division) concepts island by island. The curriculum resource guide is meant to be adaptable across grades over the years. Lāna‘i has a rich natural and cultural history that lends itself to many fields of study.

The full Lāna‘i curriculum guide will be made available through this website in the near future as well, and will be a good resource for anyone interested in facets of Lānai’s history.

place-based-Cultural literacy programs

The program includes a wide range of rich cultural-historical and natural resource initiatives accompanied by workbooks and workshops offered to students and adults. Samples of these materials are found by following the links below. 

We are currently engaged in development of grants to help align these curricula resources with the common core standards that teachers use to measure student proficiency in K-12 learning environment.

Cultural Literacy – Place-Based Learning Curriculum Workshop Held on Lāna‘i for Teachers and Island Interpretive Staff

Lāna‘i High & Elementary School workshop participants. Diane Preza photo, April 13, 2019.

One of the major initiatives of the Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage Center is a place-based educational program titled, “E ‘Ike Hou iā Lana‘i - Embracing Lāna‘i’s History Through Language and Literacy.” The program engages the community and school in a collaborative effort to improve literacy and academic outcomes. The objectives of the community-school partnership of Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage Center and the Lāna‘i High and Elementary School include, but are not limited to: 

(1) Development and utilization of a place-based and cultural curricula to improve academic outcomes for LHES students, using the living classroom (the natural, cultural and historic environments) of our small, isolated island as the starting point for engaging students in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and the wide range of subjects offered in the K-12 school. This approach to education involves students, teachers, families and subject matter experts in an education that connects youth to their community, and opens the doors to a universe of educational opportunities. 

(2) Enhance early childhood and young adult literacy through the combined study of the Hawaiian and English languages, cultural and natural history, and outreach programs.