Homeschool Share: an online homeschool curriculum cooperative hosting over 500 unit studies, lapbooks, printables, and other resources.

Island-below-the-Star, a literature-based unit study based on the book by James Rumford
The Island Below the Star

Author & Illustrator: James Rumford
Summary: Five brothers, each with a special skill, sail across the vast Pacific Ocean to the islands now known as Hawaii. 
ISBN: 0395851599

A literature-based unit study by Ami and Celia

Social Studies

Geographyn: Marquesas Islands, Pacific Ocean, Hawaiian Islands  

Marquesas Islands:   The Marquesas Islands are located in the South Pacific, about 1,000 miles northeast of Tahiti.  They are made up of 12 islands, of which 6 are inhabited and are part of French Polynesia.  This island group is farther away from a continent than any other island group in the world.

The islands are wild, rugged and lush and almost constantly covered in clouds.  (If you've studied the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, you may wish to point out that the islands are located between these two imaginary lines.)  The islands are very beautiful (Mom trivia: Survivor was shot here.)   

Once almost 80,000 people lived on these island, today only about 7,000.  (If appropriate, you may wish to discuss how explorers brought diseases to which the natives had no immunity.  Between 1600 and 1900, most of the population was wiped out by smallpox.  The population was just under 2,000 around 1900.). (Sources:  World Atlas and Wikipedia )

Pacific Ocean:  The Pacific Ocean is the earth's largest ocean.  It is about 1/3 the size of the whole earth.  There are about 25,000 islands in the Pacific.     (Sources:  Wikipedia )

Hawaii:    Hawaii is made up of 120 islands, but most are uninhabited.  There are 8 main ones.  Hawaii was the 50th and final state admitted to the USA.  These lush islands are the tops of a chain of submerged volcanoes.  They are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  They were once known as the Sandwich Islands.   Hawaii state bird/flower coloring page

(Sources:  World Atlas1, World Atlas2, Pacific Island Travel World Info Zone, and Wikipedia )  

Hawaiian Flag to color:

Map of Hawaii:

Facts about Hawaii:

Lesson Plans for a unit study on Hawaii:

Make two story disks and connect with a piece of yarn.  Place one on the Marquesas Islands and the other on Hawaii.

Brothers:    The brothers in our story share a special relationship.  They all seem to get along well.  They helped one another prepare for the journey.  The looked after their little brother.  They were not mad at Manu when he stowed away on their canoe--only laughed and pretended to throw him overboard (see the picture of the brothers laughing as Manu is held over the water).  They then gave Manu responsibilities, so he too could help out.   Though the older brothers had originally laughed at the idea of little Manu going on the dangerous journey, they were really looking out for him.  Later, when Manu spots the bird when they had been blown off course, they believe him and set sail for the direction the bird was going.  Because Manu knew about birds, they were willing to listen to him and to let Manu and the bird guide them back on course.   If your student has a brother (is a brother), discuss his relationship with his sibling(s).  What makes it special?  What responsibilities does an older brother have?  What things does your student have special knowledge in (like Manu and birds) or what special talent does your student possess?  What things do his (or her) siblings have special knowledge in (or what special talents do they possess)?

Preparations for a Journey/List making:    Once the brothers decided to go on their journey, they did not leave right away.  Instead, they took weeks to prepare the canoe and to gather or make the supplies they would need.  Hoku dried the fruit, Na'ale made fishhooks and got the harpoons, 'Opua gathered rain water, and Makani repaired the sails.   Even when we leave our home overnight, or for a few days or weeks, we too need to prepare.   Think about all the things you would need to spend the night at a friends house and make a list.  Think about all the things you would need to go camping for a weekend and make a list.

History  ‚€“ Explorers of the Pacific Ocean: 
  Read the author's note at the end of the story.   Discuss with your student any or all of these explorers of the Pacific Ocean.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa  (1475 - 1519) -- Spanish explorer.  Was the first European explorer to see the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean.

Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) -- Portuguese explorer.   Credited for being the first to completely sail around the world.  Actually, he was killed in the Philippines prior to end of the journey, but his remaining crew finished the voyage.  

Sir Francis Drake  (1545-1596) -- British explorer.  Second to circumnavigate the earth.

Captain James Cook (1728-1779) -- English explorer. Made three voyages to explore the Pacific Ocean.  He charted many areas and recorded several islands  and coastlines.  He claimed the eastern coast of Australia for Britain and discovered the Hawaiian Islands.  He was the first to prevent scurvy by providing his crew with fresh fruits.

Celebrations:   There was a great celebration for the four brothers.   For what reasons does your family celebrate?  Birthdays, weddings, new babies?   What about a person graduating from school?  A graduate is starting a new journey in life.  The friends and family of the brothers in our story celebrated the new journey the brothers were about to embark on.  It might be fun to create a luau (a Hawaiian party) this week!   Perhaps you could do this as a celebration of your own journey with this unit this week.      Oriental Trading Company, Inc. sells many affordable luau items.  You can get 12 Poly Hawaiian Leis for $3.95, a  6-Ft. Metallic Palm Tree for $4.95,  a child's hula kit (grass skirt, lei, and bracelets) for $6, and 24 1-Oz. Mini ‚€œAloha‚€Ě Bubbles for $5.95 and much more!    Or make your own leis with construction paper flowers and cut pieces of colorful drinking straws in between.  A palm tree could be made of construction paper too.   Serve punch or smoothies, fresh fruits, coconut, and maybe some recipes from here!    Here is a link to the DLTK site for more great luau ideas!

Social Studies -- Weather Lore:  
See Science lesson on Weather Prediction.

Language Arts


taro --  a large-leaved tropical Asian plant (Colocasia esculenta) of the arum family grown throughout the tropics for its edible starchy corms and cormels and in temperate regions for ornament; also : its corms and cormels typically cooked as a vegetable or ground into flour.
breadfruit -- a round starchy usually seedless fruit that resembles bread in color and texture when baked; also: a tall tropical evergreen tree (Artocarpus altilis) of the mulberry family that bears this fruit.
seaworthy -- fit or safe for a sea voyage

calabash(es) -- a utensil or container made from the dried, hollowed-out shell of the fruit of a calabash plant.

awe -- an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime

Metaphors:   Review with your student that a metaphor is a figure of speech used to compare two different things by saying one is the other.   
Examples from the story:
...palm frond of a cloud...
The waves were mountains.
The wind was a knife.
...gray blanket of clouds...

Compound Words:  Remind your student that a compound word is one word made up of  two other words.  There are a few examples from the story.  Go over them with your student, or have your older student locate some in the story.  

overboard, breadfruit, fishhooks, rainwater, seaworthy, outstretch(ed), moonlit

Copywork:   Have your student write out  Psalm 147:4:   He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.   (You may wish to save this for the Stars Science lesson.)


Medium - Watercolor:   Look at the pictures with your child and see if he can guess what medium the illustrator used.  If you have a watercolor set, allow your child to experiment making ocean scenes.

Hawaiian Beach Scenes:   Give the children each a sheet of light blue construction paper. Let them make "beaches" by brushing glue across the bottoms of their papers and sprinkling sand on the glue (use white sand, if available). Then let them glue on small shells and precut sun shapes, palm tree shapes, beach ball shapes, etc. to complete their beach scenes.


Ordinal Numbers:  This might be a good time to review or introduce your student to ordinal numbers.   Ordinal numbers tell us which order something comes in or to tell the sequence of something.  In our story's opening two page spread, we are told there were five brothers.  

The FIRST was Hoku.
The SECOND was Na'ale.
The THIRD was 'Opua.
The FOURTH was Makani.
And the FIFTH was tiny Manu.

Line up stuffed animals or counters/manipulatives and have the child practice counting by ordinal numbers.

Map Skills: they sailed north to the Island-below-the-Star.    Does your  student know which way is north?  Show him a map.  Point to the compass rose and discuss how it is used to show which way is north on the map.  Many maps will show north pointing to the top.  Then south would be at the bottom, east to the right, and west to the left.  Then between north and east is northeast, between east and south is southeast, between south and west is southwest, and between west and north is  northwest.  Challenge your older student to box the compass!! (i.e., name all 32 principal points in clockwise order!!)  

A compass rose to print out for your student to fill in eight points and color. 

Weather Predication/Weather Lore:   'Opua  was always there watching the clouds...he predicted storms....

In the days of long ago, before there were  various instruments used to predict the weather, people relied on their observations of the clouds and nature, the strength and direction of the winds,  remembering what the weather was like last year(s) in that  place, and other things to predict the weather.

This would be a good time to review the different kinds of clouds.  Clouds are generally located in three different parts of the atmosphere.  
High-Level Clouds
Low Level Clouds
Mid-Level  Clouds

Some types of clouds form only in certain levels, while others can form in any level.  Mid-level clouds generally have the prefix alto-, while the high level ones often have the prefix cirro-.

Clouds can also be classified according to type.

Stratus - gray clouds that usually fill the sky  
Cirrus - thin, wispy clouds high in the sky
Cumulus - thick, puffy clouds with lots of blue sky (but these can form into cumulonimbus clouds that bring thunderstorms!)

Within these categories of clouds, fall combinations like cirrostratus, altostratus, cumulonimbus, cirrocumulus, etc.).  Knowing the different types of clouds and their combinations help you predict the weather.  Wiki has excellent info on the different cloud types, as well as pictures. Another great place is Enchanted Learning.

Other websites:
Weather Wiz Kids:  Great page!  Describes and shows the different kinds of clouds.  Also has different Q&A about clouds
USA Today's info on clouds
More pictures of different kinds of clouds
AirlinePilots website with cloud info and pictures
Free Weather clip art at Class Room ClipArt, including clouds    
Weather Word Search Puzzle

In the days of long ago, based on the observations people made about the weather, they often made up poems or little sayings to help them remember.   For example:

Red sky in morning, sailors take warning!
Red sky at night, a sailor's delight!

More weather sayings can be found in this PDF file at
 Or by googling "weather sayings"   or "weather lore."    See how many your student already knows.  What new ones did he learn?  Observe some of the sayings over the next several weeks and keep a record of the saying and the weather.....were the sayings accurate?  

Copywork:   Have your student write out some of the sayings in his best penmanship.
           Also have him write out Matthew 16:2-3.  Even Jesus knew the saying about the red sky!
When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring

Go Along Books:  

January Fog Will Freeze a Hog by Hubert Davis has delightful pictures for each expression and an index in the back explaining each saying.   I highly recommend it.
Weather Wise by Rebecca Weber is very simple book explaining a few of the weather sayings.  Recommended for the very young rowers.  

A good book on weather in general is Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today? (The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) by Tish Rabe.   It only has one weather saying it, but it does explain all kinds of weather around the world (including hurricanes), the water cycle, lightning safety, etc. 

Weather Proverbs by George D. Freier is a 200+ page reference-type book for the parent.  It explains many different weather sayings, offers scientific explanations, and discusses lightning safety.

Another fun thing might be to look at an Old Farmer's Almanac and discuss some of the things you find within.

Celestial Navigation:  Hoku used the sun, the moon, and the twinkling stars like a map to guide them....

(Note:  This lesson is taken from my HSS unit,  Sailing Home.)    

Celestial navigation is using the stars, moon, and planets to determine your location. When you are out in the water, far from land, it is hard to know where you are. Boats of today have equipment on board that allows the captain to know exactly where the boat is. In days of long ago, sailors used math and the position of the stars, or moon, or planets to know where to go.

You may wish to discuss some of the tools that were used in celestial navigation: astrolabe, sextant, and nocturnal. (See for pictures and descriptions of each tool.)

Go along books:

The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H.A. Rey (of Curious George fame!)

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (perfect reading for the older student sitting in on this. There is a study guide available by Carole Pelttari.   

Other books for older children which you may wish to pre-read include: Adrift by Steven Callahan (Steve Callahan was able to survive 76 days at sea using a sextant he made of pencils to navigate) and My Old Man and the Sea by Daniel and David Hays (A man and his teenage son sail around Cape Horn with only a sextant and a compass).

For an older student who is very interested in this topic, there are several websites you might want to check out. (has on-line courses) (Scroll down to topics 3 and 4) (Astronomy for the naked-eye)

An older student may also want to watch the Nova episode Lost at Sea: The Search for Longitude. Here is a link to a teacher‚€™s guide for the episode.

Stars have names:   If you have rowed Follow the Drinking Gourd (FIAR, Vol. 2), you might want to ask your student the name of the star that the slaves followed northward.  If he says "The Big Dipper" remind him that that is a constellation, or a group of stars.  Ask him if he remembers the star to which the Big Dipper pointed.  The North Star.   Inform your student that many stars have names.  The star in today's story was Arcturus, which is part of the constellation Bootes (The Herdsmen). 
Activity:  If you have time, start this activity by taking your child outside one night and asking him to either count or to name each star he sees.  When he runs out of numbers or names, remind him of Psalm 147:4:   He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.   Only God is able to count all the stars in the heavens, and only He knows each by name.   Our God truly is an awesome God. 
Copywork:  Have your student write out  Psalm 147:4:   He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.   

Research:  Have your older student look up references to Arcturus in the Bible.

Bootes information at Enchanted Learning

Landform -- Archipelago:  An archipelago is a chain or cluster of islands usually in the open sea.  Both the Marquesas Islands and the Hawaiian Islands are archipelagos.  Archipelagos are often volcanic.

Bible / Character Development

Gifts:   Each of the five brothers had a unique gift that he used during the journey.  By each brother contributing his expertise, they arrived at the island safely.  The Bible tells us that the God does something similar to his churches: each member is given a gift and when the members of the church use their gifts, it makes the church stronger.  (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12: 1-30) 

Video go-along:  The VeggieTales movie, The Lord of the Beans, is all about talents.

Noah and the Flood:    Seeing birds allowed the brothers to know that land was near.  Read the account of Noah's Ark and The Flood and discuss how the dove allowed Noah to know land was near, just as the bird in our story helped the brothers. 


Just for Fun

Possible Bunny Trails

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere, such the Southern Cross.  There is a list about half way down at this page at Enchanted Learning.    

Volcanoes / Hotspots

High Islands (of volcanic origin) and Low Islands (origin is of sedimentation or uplifting of coral reefs)

Oceans/Seas and Ocean life (ideas to get you started: or )

Herman Melville:  This American writer was inspired by the Marquesas Islands to write Typee.  

Paul Gauguin:  This French painter spent the last years of his life on the Marquesas Islands and is buried there.

Study Hawaii's endangered state bird, the Nene.  Here's a link to a PDF file to get you started. Study Pelagic birds:  the birds in the story look to be Red-Tailed Tropicbirds (aka Amokuras or Phaethon Rubricauda)