The School Curriculum offers a year of activity and discussion for grades 6 through 12


Standard: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Environmental Sciences:

  1. Objective: Define biodiversity.

  2. Objective: Understand genetics and biological evolution's impact on the diversity of life.

  3. Objective: Name the parts of the kalo plant in both Hawaiian and botanical terms.

  4. Objective: Distinguish between the four genera (types) of taro.

  5. Objective: Distinguish between the classification (types) of kalo (Colocasia esculenta) varieties.

1. Define Biodiversity. defines biodiversity as the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome or on an entire planet. Biodiversity is one measure of the health of ecosystems.

2. View this video again about the importance of having multiple varieties of kalo to sustain a food supply in different environments. Video: Na `Ono o ka `Aina - Delicacies of the Land, min. 2:38. By ngtravelerseminars. Link to

3. Learn the four genera of kalo: Cyrtosperma, Alocasia, Xanthosoma, and Colocasia esculenta. See this PDF Taro, Pacific Food Leaflet No. 5. Click the words to the left and the leaflet will download. Size 2.3 MB. Published by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

Genera of taro

Credit: Weston Yap, Lois Englberger, SPC

Mwoakilloa Cyrtosperma

Credit Weston Yap. Keiki on Mwoakilloa Atoll, Micronesia, present their farm of giant swamp taro, Cyrtosperma chamissonis.

4. Dissect a kalo plant into the main parts to study its characteristics. Make comparisons to the descriptions on this website: lau, hā, lihi, kōhina, ‘i’o kalo, ‘oha, pua, etc. Students will be able to identify the parts of the kalo plant.

Kalo Anatomy 2

Credit: Weston Yap, Penny Levin

5. Hawaiian culture is strongly connected to what we observe in the surrounding environment. Explore the connections found in the names of kalo varieties. Links to

  1. The lau, leaves, are shaped like cups: ‘Apuwai, ‘Apu, Pi‘i‘ali‘i, Pa‘akai, Moana.

  2. The lau, leaves, are smoky colored, like the burning from lava: Uahiapele.

  3. The hā, stems, or ‘I‘o kalo, corm, resemble the skin colorings of fish: Mana ‘Ōpelu, ‘Ula‘ula Kūmū, ‘O‘opukai, Manini Uliuli, Moi

  4. The lau, leaves, are spotted like the feathers of a bird: ‘Elepaio

Kumu fish

Kūmū fish. Credit: Haole in Hawaii at

6. Study the morphology (form and structure) of kalo. Explore these kalo categories in which differences are easily seen. Links to Descriptions taken from Taro Varieties in Hawai‘i. University of Hawai‘i, Bulletin 84. Link to

Group Mana: Parent corms branch at apex (stems branch at top of the corm).

Group Piko: The Mahae (the V at the top of leaf) is cut to the piko (center) where the lau (leaf) meets the hā (stem).

Group Kāī: Lau concave and hanging (pendant), the margins with numerous fine undulations; hā slender, widely spreading.

Group Lauloa: Lau is long and slightly concave; margins with a few large undulations.

Group ‘Ele‘ele: Hā with blackish color.

Group ‘Ula‘ula: Hā reddish, pink at base.

Group Manini: Hā strongly striped or streaked, and corm flesh white.

Group Lehua: Hā predominantly green. Corm flesh lilac-purple.

7. Define lilac. Taro Varieties in Hawai‘i, Bulletin 84 refers to lilac a lot when it describes a light purple color. Here is a lilac:

Lilac. Photo credit

Lilac. Photo credit