Living Hawaiian Style, Iao Middle School Legacy Project: The Story

The Challenge

In the spring of 2022, ʻĪao Intermediate 6th graders of team Makaliʻi participated in a Legacy project, interviewing people in the local community and on ʻĪao school campus to find out what their thoughts are on why growing up on Maui and living here is so special. Students were grounded deeper into the roots of Hawaiian culture through place-based projects as well as oli such as “Eia nō Mākou, written by Kumu Luana Kawaʻa. Waikapū, Wailuku, Waiʻehu, and Waiheʻe, famously known as Nā Wai ʻĒhā to kamaʻāina and more modernly known as “Waiside” to the ʻōpio, is the sense of place which was woven into curriculum throughout the year. 

The Making of Living Hawaiian Style, OUR KŪPUNA AND THE ʻĀINA Legacy Project with ʻĪao Middle School

Through a generous grant from The Makana Aloha Foundation, When We Shine Foundation provided classroom support. Rae Takemoto, Creative Projects Coordinator and Teaching Artists, Melinda Caroll and Shelley Toon Lindberg, joined in this living legacy project with ʻĪao Middle School 6th Grade Teacher, Donelle Sakuma, resulting in a multi-media music video project entitled, Living Hawaiian Style as part of When We Shine Foundationʻs ongoing series, “Our Kupuna and the ʻĀina.”

Kūpuna Interviews

Students were asked to write a reflection question about the experiences they had with this project.  Here are some questions they came up with:


What is one thing you learned about yourself and your kūpuna through this process?

What is one thing you will always remember about this project?

What was your most favorite thing about doing this project? 

What was the most challenging thing you faced while doing this project?

Our Kūpuna and the ʻĀina Legacy Project Interviews

The Process

 After conducting interviews with different elders, students brainstormed words of wisdom they remembered from the interviews that stood out to them. Teaching artist Melinda Caroll, guided students in pulling their ideas into lyrics, which then turned into a song written by three classes, entitled Living Hawaiian Style.  Students of those classes went into the recording studio and sang as a class and in small groups.

Kūpuna Stories Come to Life

Once the song was created, teaching artist Shelley Toon Lindberg, of “Arts in Education of the Gorge” guided our haumāna in telling the story through visual arts.  Students broke the chorus and verses into main ideas and details to decide which art pieces they would need to create.

The Artists at work...

The Artists at work...

The Artists at work....


Through this collaborative process students used many different skills. Collaboration, cooperation, decision making, communication, and problem solving to name a few.

And besides the stories and manaʻo, the thoughts and wisdom of the elders they interviewed, each student was asked to share their take-away from the whole experience. The deepening of their connection to their families and sense of place was the over-arching theme, to keep their culture strong.


The art of song-writing, singing and stop-motion storytelling brought the experience directly into the classroom and eventually into the entire ʻīao Middle School!

On May 24th, the 160+ students who directly participated in When We Shine Foundationʻs OUR KŪPUNA AND THE ʻĀINA music video project, launched their World Premier of of their hard work! They performed their song live and shared their music video and process with the entire student body and faculty of ʻĪao Middle School, over 1,200 people!

Now their music video is available to be seen and heard round the world!

Living Hawaiian Style, Iao Middle School 6th Graders

Please Share

Our special Mahalo Nui Loa goes out to Gifted Teacher and Cultural Advisor for her exceptional work on this project, Donelle Sakuma!

This completed project is now available to view on When We Shine Foundationʻs YouTube Channel. If you enjoy it, please subscribe to our Voices of the Earth YouTube Channel! Mahalo!


We are deeply grateful to the Makana Aloha Foundation for providing us the opportunity to add value to the ʻĪao Middle School here on Maui with our multi-media Arts and interactive songwriting project. And we are humbled by the overwhelming positive response from teachers, students and the administration of these schools to continue exploring ad offering more ways we can share the children's music video message with all of Hawaiʻi and the world.

If you would like to participate in our projects, please contact us at: And, if you would like to support our work, please click below.

Mahalo Nui Loa!