Intro Lesson About

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5

Lesson 6

Lesson 7

Lesson 8


Introductory Lesson:
Geographic Basics


Lesson at a glance

You will identify your area and use maps to describe its location using both longitude & latitude, and in terms of other landmarks.

In each Pacific Island entity, territory (both land and sea) is divided in accordance with that culture’s specific system. These land divisions are the units of study for Pacific Worlds websites and for this Guide. It allows for a finite and focused study, and one that is personal and immediate, allowing for field and out-of-classroom exercises, contact with local elders and specialists, and the development of a sense in which culture and history play out in one’s immediate local geography.

In preparation for the lessons that follow, you are encouraged to identify the “land” division in which your school is located or that is of most immediate relevance to your students. You ought to find or produce a map of that area, defining its boundaries as best as is possible, so that the focus area is clear. We emphasize that these “land divisions” also usually incorporate the ocean offshore.

Location: Following that, students will collect some standard geographic information about your division’s location, in both “absolute” and “relative” terms, as well as within the local system of place names.

“Absolute” location means using the grid of longitude and latitude. Since this system has nothing to do with traditional cultural understandings of geography, we are putting this task “outside” the main lessons.

Traditional systems often present a different way of looking at “location.” For example, the Hawaiian system identifies places in a nested hierarchy: mokupuni (island), then moku ‘aina (“district”), then ahupua‘a (administrative division), then by ‘ili or strips of cultivated land. Often smaller place names may be lost, or may appear in “neighborhood” names.

Getting Here: “Relative” location describes where you are in terms of other places or phenomena, e.g. “in the Tropics,” “West of California,” “Northwest of Fiji,” etc. This exercise approaches relative location through describing the journey required to get to your area for an outsider. The purpose is to understand where we are in relation to other places or geographical features. Other relative-location concepts can be explored.



Key Concepts: Absolute location, Relative location, Longitude & Latitude, your local Land Division system.

Lesson Outcomes: The students will:

í be familiarized with the concept of the land division system in your culture;

í understand how to determine Longitude & Latitude using a map;

í discern their location using the local land-division system;

í describe the relative location of their land division.Tools:

í An appropriate Atlas or map for your part of the Pacific

í Map of your Island group (where appropriate)

í Map showing the traditional administrative divisions of your island or group

í Blank outline map of your Island


National Geographic Expedition has three relevant exercises:

í “Introduction to Latitude and Longitude” for the K-2 Level,

í “Which Direction Should I Go?” (on compass directions) for Grades 3-5, and

í “Latitude, Longitude, and Mapmaking” for the Grades 6-8 Level

Go to Choose “Lesson Plans” and search through their lists to find the appropriate lesson.

Note: these lessons were written for U.S. Mainland students, so you might want to use maps of the Pacific where they say to use a map of the United States.

A lesson on time zones produced by the Hawai‘i Geographic Alliance for Grade 3 is available online at







Exercise 1: Your Land division
Website > Welcome and Location pages.

Using the blank map, draw in the land division boundaries for your area. Or, if your entire island is a single division, use a blank map of your island group and designate the divisions within it.

Land divisions are often defined as a natural-resource area, designed to include all available natural-resource zones (e.g. from the mountains to the sea, or from the island center outwards). These divisions also have some political basis that varies from place to place.

Use a blank map of your land division and sketch in where the traditional resource zones are or would have been:

í Agricultural land

í Forest Zone

í Zone of habitation

í Other


Exercise 2: Absolute Location (Longitude and Latitude)
Website > Location pages.

Using an atlas or a good map of your region, determine the Longitude and Latitude of your land division as closely as possible. Depending on the scale of the map, you might use your school as the target location.

You can also pick another location in another portion of the Pacific, on the other side of the 180-degree meridian, and determine the longitude and latitude of that location. This will show how the system of longitude meridians goes half-way around the world in each direction.

This exercise can be extended to a consideration of time zones: choose different locations in and around the Pacific and determine what time it is in each location, given the time where you are.



Exercise 3: Local-style Location and Direction

Describe your location in terms of your own culture’s system of geographical divisions. Discuss how these terms serve as a means of conceptually “mapping” where places were.

What are the words for (compass) directions in your language? How do they differ from the North-South-East-West system commonly used today? Do you even have four directions, or is your system different altogether?

In Western culture we tend to think of North as the starting point. But how is your own indigenous system set up? What does it tell you about your own culture’s geography?



Exercise 4: Relative Location
Website > Getting Here pages

Explain the concept of relative location, and then invite students to describe the relative location of your land division in as many ways as you or they feel are significant. You might start with describing the journey a visitor to your island would have to take—what landmarks would they pass?



Exercise 5: Orientation
Website > Orientation pages

Describe your land division as it is today:

What makes for the boundaries that define your area?


What are the important landmarks or locations, both in the physical landscape and the built landscape?

Does your land division comprise more than one valley, or more than one island, and if so, why?

You can do this exercise as though you have to describe your land division to an outsider.



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