In October of 2020, when our local community was starting to really feel the intense effect that Covid was having on our school children and our Hawaiʻi teachers, When We Shine Foundationʻs project team, Rae Takemoto, Shelley Toon Lindberg and Melinda Caroll (Team Shine), began discussions exploring possible art integration ideas that could help create a communication pathways to galvanize and support our community. The Keiki Covid Awareness Project was born out of those discussions.
This pandemic has been both frightening and de-stabilizing for children and for adults, causing confusion and divisiveness in our communities. Team Shine wanted to create a project that would give children a healthy way to express freely and to tell their side of what they were feeling, both the good and uncomfortable. We decided a song-story and stop-motion music video project could help them bring their words and images to life and then could be shared with a broader audience, their entire schools, their parents, kupuna and our local community.
Our intention was to help the Keiki feel empowered and informed by assisting them in becoming the creators of their own story. Our aim was to support their process in bringing out something meaningful, even something hopeful, from what they had experienced and learned, and to share it, maybe even inspire others.
Our goals were:
• To reflect on the role each person plays in creating safety and wellness in their own space, family and community. LOKAHI
• To feel empowered with knowledge and the understanding of what each person can do. ALOHA KEKAHI I KEKAHI
• To understand that their contribution matters – help to identify their role. – KULEANA
• To feel a sense of belonging to a larger community. - LAULIMA
Teaching values: Nā Hopena A‘o (“HĀ”)-BREATH
• Strengthened Sense of Hawai‘i: I am enriched by the uniqueness of this prized place. A sense of Hawai‘i is demonstrated through an appreciation for its rich history, diversity and indigenous language and culture. I am able to navigate effectively across cultures and communities and be a steward of my community and of the land.
• Things that people do to live can affect the world around them. But they can make choices that are empowering, calming and contribute to the whole.
The Keiki Covid Awareness Project, and Pomaikaʻi Elementary School April, 2021 and in Kula Elementary School in May of 2021 was sponsored by private donations to When We Shine Foundation and a grant from The Fred Baldwin Foundation.
We began in February, 2021, Rae Takemoto, Creative Project Director for When We Shine Foundation, met with and began proposing our project to both Pomaikaʻi and Kula Elementary schools, identifying 4th grade teachers who wanted to participate. They began coordinating lesson plans and dates and together, they laid out a template that intertwined their regular curriculum objectives with our project focus and created a schedule that wove seamlessly into the teacherʻs daily flow.
Melinda Caroll Songwriting Residency began in March 2021, with 4, 45-minute writing classes that combined online and in-person participation. Once the song was complete, Melinda worked with David Kauahikaua to produce a vocal guide and rhythm track for the children to practice singing and memorizing their song.
Shelley Toon Lindbergʻs Multi-Media Residency began with the 4th Grade classes at Pomaikaʻi and Kula Elementary in May of 2021. She began by helping the children identify the characters in their story and designing their color wheel, drawing and painting the backgrounds. Next their instruction utilized multi-media digital technology and with special I-pad set ups, they composed the stop-motion visuals that matched the rhythm and lyrics in the song.
While Shelley was teaching the children how to create their artful storyboard and animating their video project, Melinda was digitally recording the children singing, one by one, in a small room at each of the school libraries.
Heart of Aloha is the name of the song and video completed by Pomaikaʻi Elementary School and The Earth is Ours to Mālama is the title given to Kula Elementary Schoolʻs music video. On May 28, 2021, both schools held their “World Premier” of their hard work and art-filled productions. The positive descriptive response we received from teachers, students, principals, staff, parents and their grandparents was both appreciative and joyful, with words like alike uplifting, enriching, unifying and the brightest spot of their Keikiʻs school year 2021!
We are also in the process of mastering their songs and creating artwork for their album as well as full public release of their video which you will find on our website soon.
We are proud of our efforts and have since been working on more ways we can share the children's music video message with all of Hawaiʻi. We are presently communicating with local sponsors and Artist Mentors to do just that!