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Creating Good Ideas For Public Schools

By Nolan Kawano, president, Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation

Founded in 1986, the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation (PSHF) is dedicated to creating innovative educational opportunities for Hawaii’s public schools that not only engage and excite children, but also their parents and the community around them.


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Nolan Kawano

One such example is our Good Ideas Grant program. In 2012, the PSHF provided Hawaii’s public school teachers with more than $200,000 to purchase materials and equipment that benefited more than 5,000 K-12 students across the state, with more than $4 million awarded since the inception of the program.

Funding for these Good Ideas is raised at our annual Kulia I Ka Nu’u Awards Banquet, which this year will honor two distinguished public school graduates: Guy Fujimura (Farrington High) and Donna Tanoue (Kalani High), as well as corporate honoree R.M. Towill Corporation.

In their 2013 Good Ideas grant proposal, teachers at Maili Elementary School, led by Norma Cox, explains, “Our reading curriculum at Maili Elementary is organized around books that were great when we were growing up but no longer seem relevant to these students.”

In an age where electronic reading devices are preferred, books were purchased for 120 sixth graders, including students who often stated that they do not have access to books at home, and are they encouraged to read. No games, no Internet, no fancy reading devices, just real books meant to engage and enlighten students. As a result of the Good Ideas Grant, these students transformed into avid readers who surpassed and doubled their quarterly goals.

“This money did not simply buy books; it bought these children freedom to choose the books that they connected with. They were very excited as well as taken aback that someone had asked for their opinion regarding good books,” says Cox. “This, I believe, was a very profound and empowering experience for them and an enlightening one for me.”

Books were also used for a unit on immigrants in America. This gave students the opportunity to role-play, discuss, and more importantly think and connect with the characters in the story. “It was truly a paradigm shift in our classrooms to a student-centered experience for learning,” says Cox.

For more information, visit pshf.org or email publicschoolhawaiifoundation@gmail.com.

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