KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kalihi Kai elementary school students were given a gift Wednesday when Jack Johnson and Jake Shimabukuro performed there.
"It was just amazing, my mind was blown," said fifth grader Matthew Valeriano.
And to think, they were just the warm-up act. Kalihi Kai, along with Kamaile Academy and Waianae elementary, were named recipients of the Turnaround Arts initiative for Hawaii.
Turnaround Arts is a program designed to increase student performance through the introduction of various arts in the curriculum. The three year pilot program is being funded by a five million dollar gift from the US Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation and other donations.
"That's the goal is to make them excited, get them excited about school to get into the classroom," said Shimabukuro.
The schools will hire arts and music teachers, equip them with supplies and instruments, and give them the autonomy to set facets of the curriculum to help inspire the students.
"Kids learn in different ways. Some like reading and doing things in the more traditional way, others are going to want to learn through music and drawing," said Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
Studies back up her assertion.
"We have actual footage how certain channels in the brain open up when you're playing music," said actor/activist Alfre Woodard.
Turnaround Arts has delivered an average 23 percent increase in math proficiency and 13 percent reading proficiency in schools across the nation. The inspiration it creates--harder to quantify, but easy to identify.
"You can see a little sparkle in the kids' eyes and you can see they start to get it. You can tell they want to pick up an instrument, maybe it's just get into painting, whatever it is, it's just that creativity, they start to get that creativity in their mind," said Jack Johnson.