Perception of the Sacred: Mauna Kea & the TMT



  • Initiate and participate effectively in collaborative discussions pertaining to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
  • Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives inside and outside of the classroom.


In this lesson plan, students will learn about the controversy surrounding the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaiʻi. The TMT is a large ground based infrared observatory that is proposed to stand 18 stories high and occupy 8 acres of undeveloped land on the northwest slope of Mauna Kea, a sacred space to many Native Hawaiians.

Through a series of reflections, discussions, lectures, and assignments, students explore the connection between colonialism and perception of the sacred using this controversy as a template.


  1. What does it mean for a site to be sacred?
  2. What is the controversy at Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope?
  3. What are the arguments for and against the Thirty Meter Telescope?
  4. How does Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope controversy relate to a larger history of colonialism in Hawaii?