Curriculum Background


The overarching goals of the Pono Choices curriculum are to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and incidences of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), increase positive bonding in the school and community, increase the sense of self-identity and self-efficacy, and improve expectations for the future.

The curriculum covers the following topics:

      • Anatomy and puberty
      • Goal setting
      • Effective communication skills
      • Recognizing healthy and unhealthy relationships
      • Refusing unwanted sexual pressure
      • Information on how STIs are transmitted
      • Knowledge of birth control methods including abstinence
      • Correct steps for effective condom use
      • Practice refusing sexual pressure through scenarios and role-plays

Culturally Responsive

The Pono Choices curriculum draws upon place-based theoretical foundations using the Hawaiian culture as the host culture. Many studies have shown that this type of “culturally responsive” teaching approach can better engage students and support their learning because it is relevant to their lives and fosters a trusting relationship with students and families. Additionally, the Native Hawaiian Education Council (2002) recommends that one of the key guidelines for Hawaiian educational success is to strengthen and sustain Native Hawaiian cultural identity and to support the learning, use, and understanding of the Hawaiian language, culture, history, heritage, traditions, and values.

The Pono Choices curriculum uses Native Hawaiian cultural referents to reinforce important knowledge, attitudes, and skills pertinent to pregnancy and STI prevention. Cultural components in the curriculum include:

The introduction of Hawaiian cultural values and an original story

Hawaiian cultural values are introduced in each lesson to reinforce lesson content and are expanded on through the original cultural story, entitled “The Voyage of the Wa‘a Kaulua.” The story serves as an access point into the curriculum content from the viewpoint of two adolescents preparing for an important journey.

Cultural practices to provide a bridge between school and home

Pono Choices embeds cultural practices in the curriculum through ‘ohana (family) activities. Students and the members of their ‘ohana have the opportunity to construct a wa‘a (canoe), braid cordage, and create a lei while reinforcing the message of pregnancy and STI prevention.

Locally produced videos and original artwork

Pono Choices also uses locally produced videos and historical readings. Stories are used throughout the curriculum to connect students to their community. Seeing oneself represented in the curriculum is an essential part of any culturally responsive learning environment.

Curriculum Components

The Pono Choices curriculum consists of 10 modules. The first module is 30 minutes, and the remaining modules are 60-65 minutes each. They are to be taught in sequence as follows:

Module 1: Introduction to Pono Choices

Module 2: Pono—Making Pono Choices

Module 3: Mōhala—Lessons in Puberty and Anatomy

Module 4: Nohona—Role of Communication in Healthy Relationships

Module 5: Aloha—Maintaining Respect in Relationships

Module 6: Hāpai Pono—Preventing an Unintended Pregnancy

Module 7: Pilina A‘o—Understanding Sexually Transmitted Infections

Module 8: Pilina Pono—Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections

Module 9: Nā Kūlia—Negotiation Skills and Role-Play

Module 10: Oli Ho‘omana—Empowerment

“The Voyage of the Wa‘a Kaulua” Audio Story

The Pono Choices curriculum uses a Hawaiian cultural framework that includes stories to illustrate the importance of making pono choices and to reinforce the primary prevention message. It emphasizes the development of personal character and the importance of making pono choices to help youth reach their goals and dreams.

In Modules 2 through 10, students listen to an original audio story, called “The Voyage of the Waʻa Kaulua,” that highlights two youth who are going through puberty and journeying toward their goals and dreams as they transition into adulthood.

“The Voyage of the Wa‘a Kaulua” audio story supports the lesson message and sets the tone of the lesson.

The story serves as a (1) preview of the topic that students will be learning about, (2) connection to students’ auditory learning style, (3) cultural practice and a foundation for learning that draws upon the tradition of oral history and storytelling. 

Please click on the module titles below to listen to the chapters of “The Voyage of the Wa‘a Kaulua” audio story.

Module 2: Pono

Module 3: Mōhala

Module 4: Nohona

Module 5: Aloha

Module 6: Hāpai Pono

Module 7: Pilina A‘o

Module 8: Pilina Pono

Module 9: Nā Kūlia

Module 10: Oli Ho‘omana