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The Fish and their Gifts

School: Kanu o ka ‘Aina New Public Charter School

City/State: Waimea, HI

Grade(s): 9, 10, 11, 12

Format(s): Bilingual, Children's book

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Visual Arts, World Language

Project Overview

This picture book was created by middle and high schools students from the Kanu o ka ‘Aina New Public Charter School on the Big Island in Hawaii, for younger, elementary-aged students, as part of an extensive and ongoing effort to create culturally relevant bilingual curriculum materials for Hawaiian students.

The creation of curriculum materials is part of a larger effort to reintroduce Hawaiian students to native culture and language – helping them to reclaim traditional language before it is lost. As part of a larger movement in Hawaii, the Kamehameha Charter Schools are one of the leaders in this effort. A foundation connected with the charter schools, called the Kalo Foundation, arranges for the professional publication of these books and products. For more information visit

Few curriculum products are bilingual by design, and very few are created by students for students. This book, and others like it created by the school’s high school students, represent a powerful, useful project idea for schools anywhere: older students creating bilingual curriculum for younger students.

Many of these books tell a story, using the same illustrations/artwork, in English and native Hawaiian – hold it one way and the story can be read in Hawaiian to the center of the book –flip it over and it is the same story in English until the center of the book.

The students who worked on this children’s book wrote an original fable, telling the story of a young boy who upon getting swept out into the ocean prays to the “protector of fisherman for help.” A school of fish swarm together, saving his life. The fish are rewarded for their efforts; in turn protects each fish gets protected in a special way. 

The combination of a simple, but compelling story with beautiful painted/collage images creates a professional looking children’s book which is stunning in artistic quality. The school hosted a visiting artist from Oahu who taught the students the painted collage technique featured in this and other books produced by Kanu o ka Aina for Hawaiian cultural immersion schools.

This book, and others like it, may be purchased from the school or the foundation.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Beautiful, professional quality children’s book written and illustrated entirely by older students – parallel in quality to the finest illustrated children’s books commercially available
  • A brilliant model for a bilingual book – written in one language from one direction; flipped over, written in the second language
  • Stunning model for painted/collage style illustration
  • Great example of service learning
  • Exemplifies locally produced bilingual/culturally relevant curriculum materials
  • The quality of production is engaging and gives it a professional look and feel
  • Highly successful collaboration among multi-age secondary students

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using relevant details and event sequences that make sense.
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing appropriate to task, purpose and audience.
  • I can use correct grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • I can use a style manual appropriate for the discipline and type of writing.
  • I can use resources to build my vocabulary.
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