Kamalani Academy founder Kuuipo Laumatia had no previous background in public education when she decided she wanted to start her own school. All she knew was that she wanted a school that would engage kids and make learning fun.

On a visit to Pomaikai Elementary, an arts integration school on Maui, Laumatia and fellow Kamalani co-founder Steve Davidson found the model for their new school. Pomaikai uses drama, dance and other arts to help teach subjects such as science and reading.

In this episode of On Campus , Civil Beat visits Pomaikai Elementary to see first hand what it was that inspired Kamalani’s founders.

Poomaikai Elementary School Maui wide.
Pomaikai Elementary School Campus on Maui. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Pomaikai Elementary, now in its 11th year of operation, was the first school to open in Hawaii as an arts integration school.

Rae Takemoto, Pomaikai’s curriculum coordinator, credits the school’s success to its partnerships with community organizations such as the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, as well as Pomaikai’s “culture of collaboration”.


Takemoto’s advice to schools that are thinking about integrating the arts into their curriculum: first focus on building strong relationships among their staff.

“If you want a school of teachers or people taking creative risks they have to have trust and you have to have a collaborative culture in order to have that trust,” Takemoto says.

On Campus is an ongoing project chronicling Kamalani Academy’s first year. Listen to Episode 8 of On Campus below, or download it on iTunes.

On Campus is supported by a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

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