Project Snapshots

Since 2007, PALS has been supporting exciting and meaningful learning experiences for students across the Wai'anae Coast. Please read more about some of our past successes below.

Paint the Night Away
  • Nānākuli High and Intermediate School

  • Nānākuli, Hawai‘i


View an extensive overview of the project here.


Another great community event was held at Nānākuli High and Intermediate School (NHIS) on the evening of February 20, 2015. This time each participant had a personal impact in the overall look of the mural piece by painting individual tiles (over 500) of a sweet potato mosaic that when brought together created a symbolic representation of the place in which it was held, Nānākuli. Through the vehicle of acrylic pens, the creative and artistic minds of the community enriched a collaborative design depicting sweet potato as it crawls along providing abundance in food. This Hawaiian canoe plant is a great cultural symbol and connection of this valley.


The event was part of a larger three day closing of the Makahiki season that brought together organizations in both planning and funding.  Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (WCCHC), Ka’ala Farms, PALS & PLACES, the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), the Children’s Healthy Living Program, and a generous donation by the Learning Coalition to aid in the purchasing of food prepared in an imu for two of the days provided a grand platform in collaboration by businesses and programs along the Wai‘anae Coast. Within the planning of details of each event came about a great consideration of resources and connections focused on the overall theme of wai (water) and creating healthy communities.

Healthy Me, Healthy You, Healthy Us
  • Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade

  • Mākaha Elementary

  • Mākaha, Hawai‘i


View an extensive overview of the project here.


The Healthy Living- Healthy Me, Healthy You, Healthy Us project engaged students from Mākaha Elementary School in the study and celebration of the foods of their community. Children explored the possible ways to transform traditional recipes into healthy alternatives, while using local ingredients found on the 5-acre farm adjacent to their school. The project culminated with children preparing, plating, and serving recipes they created, with community members and peers in the form of a restaurant atmosphere where “ambiance,” nutrition, and relationships were at the forefront.


This project benefited from collaboration with the organic farm next to the school, Hōa ʻĀina O Mākaha, a PALS gardening group, and a restaurant reviewer from the community. Hoa ʻĀina O Mākaha was home to both groups, providing land and seeds to plant, as well as a kitchen to create healthy and delicious recipes to share. A restaurant critic was invited to the group as a guest speaker to help students learn about and take on the discourse of a restaurant critic. This allowed the students to create a restaurant-like atmosphere in which they shared their dishes with friends and community.

Robotic Solutions
  • Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade

  • Ka Waihona O Ka Na‘auao PCS, Kamaile Academy PCS, Mā‘ili Elementary, Mākaha Elementary, Nānāikapono Elemenary, Wai‘anae Elementary

  • Nānākuli & Wai‘anae, Hawai‘i


View an extensive overview of the project here.


The Robotics Solutions group explored science and technology through Lego robots. Students problem-solved challenges using coding or programming. The project had multiple culmination activities throughout the year including the First Lego League Competition gaming section and project piece, the Robofest gaming and presentation tournament, and the U.S. Coast Guard SeaPerch underwater robotics program.


For the Robofest Tournament at the University of Hawai‘i – West O'ahu, students competed against 17 other teams from across O'ahu in the gaming competition. Each team had two rounds of two minutes each to complete their “Avoid Meltdown” missions.  PALS students were able to program the robot to drop two of the water balls into the box. While they failed to drop the third water ball and the egg, they embraced the challenges. Student learned to use the scientific method and math skills.  They further learned 21st century skills including critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

Na Kama O Ka Aina

Our awesome Na Kama O Ka Aina PALS group from Ka Waihona O Ka Na'auao Public Charter School has been working hard studying their culture through learning about kalo (taro). Their project is focused around the following driving question:


As a cultural student, how can we use kalo to learn about sustainability and impact our 'ohana and community?


Through this project, students are being introduced to Hāloa through stories, guest speakers, and hands-on experiences. They are constructing implements such as papa ku'i 'ai and pohaku ku'i 'ai and are learning the entire process of using kalo to provide food for themselves and their 'ohana.


On this particular day, Wai'anae High School PALS students visited Ka Waihona and the Na Kama group where the younger Na Kama students worked side by side with their high school friends to teach them the art of making papa ku'i 'ai. They also shared 'oli and makana with the high schoolers welcoming them into their school to work on their projects together. Truly, there is no better way for students to demonstrate and own their knowledge than to teach others about what they have learned.


It was a "chicken skin" afternoon of sharing, teaching, and learning together as both groups united around the study of their culture through learning about kalo. What a wonderful way to begin impacting their 'ohana and community.

Gaming With Ancestral Heroes

Nanakuli High School students co-presented with PALS staff at this year's Schools Of The Future conference held in Honolulu, Hawaii. PALS gaming club students (Lance Swope and Joshua Eberhart-Cantiberos), senior intern (Ishmael Dalere), gaming club coach (Jeff Vierra), and local artist (Solomon Enos) joined hands with PALS for a presentation entitled "Changing Our Story: Gaming With Ancestral Heroes". In this segment, cultural practitioners, educators, artists, and gamers told of empowering students to control their destiny — with the medium of gaming. Students became characters in a card game that required they make choices related to the current story of their ahupua'a — including what it was, and can be again. With the help of ancestral heroes, students made choices critical for healing their environment — and in the process developed an understanding of the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated issues.

The Life of The Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness

"Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono," the famous phrase in Hawaiian, lines the bottom of the state seal on the capitol building in downtown Honolulu. "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness" is the common translation. Who would have known how much controversy would come in the years after this saying was first proclaimed by King Kamehameha III in 1843? How should the land be cared for? Who has the right to the use of lands in Hawai'i, and who does not? What will happen to the people who live here if the land is not cared for? These questions beg to call upon all of those who enter this building to consider truly what it means to treat the land "pono." Maybe that is why the statue of Father Damien rests patiently in front of the state seal, to remind us of what it means to serve and be pono. In the mean time, how many legislators, lobbyists, and others with good intentions march past these two structures into the capitol building daily without ever considering the kaona (hidden meaning) of these monuments.


Seeking answers to these questions, small farming advocates from all over the state gathered at the capitol on January 7th to join a roundtable discussion as a means to inform legislators about the vital issues surrounding agriculture in Hawaii. One student, Keith Woods, from Nanakuli High School had the privilege to participate in these discussions. Land rights, labeling laws, and food safety certifications were the topics on the agenda for that day. After spending time with Governor, Neil Abercrombie, and speaking to the House of Representatives Agricultural Chair, Jessica Wooley, Keith stated, "I think I learned more in one day by coming here than I have by sitting in class for months back at school." Later, in a discussion with various leaders in agriculture around the state he said, "I feel like the issues we are discussing here will make it possible for me to one day work in this field."

Ku'i Kalo

Could there be a better connection between health, fitness, and culture? The livelihood of the Hawaiians, considered pastime for the ancestors, and a means to discovering community amongst themselves as they pounded, shows to be no different today. On a partly cloudy day with scattered rains, hundreds of locals from Makaha showed up at Makaha Community Park to participate in various activities meant to promote health and fitness. The Aloha 'Aina ku'i club from Ka Waihona Charter School PALS brought three papa ku'i ai each with a pohaku. Hoa 'Aina o Makaha Farm also donated three boards and stones for pounding. The students led the opening ceremony for the festival with tradition, four conch shell blows representing the east, north, west, and south. From 10:30am till 5pm, there was a constant flow of children with their parents gathering to ku'i kalo and remember who they are as Hawaiians.

Nanaikapono's PALS Fittest Kids at Xterra

On the 24th of November, along a 5K trail at Kualoa Ranch, you would have seen 14 students from Nanaikapono's PALS Fittest Kids group running in their new shoes, making a name for themselves in the annals of Xterra Trail Run Series: World Championships. Each of these students started the year unaware of what it would mean to commit to getting fit and then becoming a model for others in their families, at their school and in their community. They learned to stretch, to breathe, to run with good form. They ran after school and at lunch, on weekends and on holidays; working toward their goal of participating in the Xterra. They were supported by their tutors, teachers and families, and most importantly, by each other. And run they did! The students, who had never run off road before, all finished the 5K in respectable time. See their results in Hawaii Sport. The pace was set by Donnie Crespo, a 9-year-old 4th grader, who came in first in her age category. Her mother and siblings were there to cheer her on; her mother sharing, "Now Donnie gets all her work done so she can be in PALS and so she can run!" These Fittest Kids will keep running and hope to plan a 5K for the Nanakuli community.

Students from Nanakuli Intermediate win the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa and the 5210 committee's the Best For Kids, By Kids Healthy Snack contest!

When Kumu Vince Dodge shared his kiawe flour and basic 'aina bar recipe with the students and tutors of Nanakuli Intermediate/High School (NIHS) PALS group, little did he know that it would be the foundation for the winning healthy snack 2013 contest entry. The NIHS PALS group is challenging themselves to use the local ingredients that surround us to make new and useful products. So when they received the invitation to submit a healthy snack using local ingredients, the answer was obvious. They took Uncle Vince's basic recipe (kiawe flour, peanut butter, raw honey and salt) and made their own. The result: award-winning PALS Coconut 'Aina Treats!!! These treats will be featured on the By Kids, For Kids Children's menu at the Shor Restaurant, Hyatt Waikiki, for the next six months. Check it out or make them yourselves! Read more from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser article.

Imu: Hawaiian Underground Oven

The Sustainability Academy at Nanakuli High School appreciates the ancient practices of the Hawaiians. They enjoy demonstrating how the typical Hawaiian daily lifestyle was sustainable. Building an imu (in ground earth oven) models how all of us can cook food to feed many people without using modern energy like electricity or natural gas. On December 18th of 2013, students from the NHS Sustainability Academy worked in collaboration with PALS and Ka'ala Farm to make an imu that cooked traditional Hawaiian foods like 'uala (sweet potato), lau leaf (from the taro plant), kaula pig, and chicken. They also served cooked spinach and a kale/lettuce salad from their school garden that they regularly maintain. The kind of work the students were involved in that day provoked questions like, "How did the ancient Hawaiians move the stones once they were hot?" and "What did the Hawaiians use to cover the imu since they didn't have plastic?" After the pit was covered up and that smoky, savory imu flavor still lingered, over 100 full bellies went home satisfied that day.

Working with Community to Preserve and Create Culture — The Art and Science of Hale Building

Iokaha students from Nanakuli High School are learning how to build a hale using contemporary mathematics and science knowledge as well as traditional cultural knowledge. They visited Kalaeloa Heritage Park and participated with other volunteers who are building a hale on site. While there they got a history lesson from Uncle Shad Kane, a local cultural practitioner, who shared his knowledge on the ancient settlement there where remains and artifacts indicate that the people who lived for hundreds of years at Kalaeloa were not Hawaiian, but Tahitians or other Polynesian families who probably traveled regularly between Hawai'i and their far-away homeland. Iokaha students will return to Nanakuli where they will use the knowledge they acquired such as making shaka cords to lash beams together, creating scaffolding, and raising beams to build their own hale. As one student said to another "We've got to know this stuff to build our own hale back at the school!" What a wonderful contribution that will be to the school and all of the students there!

Community Activism: Dreaming Big

Students from the Hoa Aina PALS have created a Community Service Group named Call to Action. As part of their effort to become advocates for their community, they took a look at their own strengths and weaknesses as well as started dreaming about who they wanted to be! They used a 3-column chart to reflect on their qualities and dreams and to present this information to others in the group. As they shared, they got a visit from a local celebrity who dreamt big and who is a strong advocate for children and families within the community — Jack Johnson, local singer and songwriter. Who knows what wonderful things will happen when we nurture children's abilities to build upon their strengths to pursue their dreams! How are you helping children to dream?

Past Projects

University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity (SEED)

2600 Campus Rd., QLSSC 413

Honolulu, HI 96822

PALS (Place-based After-school Literacy Support)