Kapaa Middle School

Kapaa Middle School

We recently had the opportunity to give a presentation to Mr. Josephson’s 7th grade Social Studies classes at Kapa`a Middle School on Kaua`i. It all started through a collaboration between Social Emotional Learning (SEL) coordinators from Kapa`a Middle School and the Resilience Project - Kaua`i Planning & Action Alliance. 

Our project partners were Allyn Scott, MSW from Kapa`a Middle School and Alice Luck, President of Kauai Planning & Action Alliance.

Goals for the Community Project:                

“The goal of the project is to uplift students by bringing members of their local community into the school to share stories about life experiences, giving them hope and sharing stories of overcoming adversity with resilience. Another goal is to strengthen understanding of the social-emotional skills and three Native Hawaiian character values that the Kapa`a Middle School is focusing on: Kūpaa (character), Kūpono (compassion), and Kūlia (confidence). This will be a “Tier 1” SEL intervention.” – Resilience Project

As a participant in the project, we were given the topic of “compassion” to present and discuss with students. As a first step I reached out to Matt Shackley, co-creator of Science of CAN. concepts, the “how” CAN. thinktank. Matt is currently a PhD candidate in Education at UCSB with an interdisciplinary emphasis in Cognitive Science. We just know him to be wicked smart, creative, and very relatable. 

 Matt and I went to work and came up with the following for a presentation.

CAN pong game

Presentation / Goals:                                  

Present to the students the idea of being considerate of others support systems and backgrounds. We want students to consider the value of support systems we all have and how important they are and how it can be challenging for others depending on family, community, and life circumstances. We also want students to value the importance of gratitude for who they have in their lives, reinforcing these connections, and growing this network for themselves and others.

Icebreaker: Red Cup Pong                          

Balls represent opportunities for support, guidance, and help. Cups represent people they have in their network. I had an idea in my head about a game you throw a ball into a basket as a metaphor for how easy or challenging it is for various people to connect with a support system. Matt pretty quickly sorted out my mind and came up with a version of Beer Pong. We knew the visual was a bit risky, but actual game we came up with was spot on for explaining support networks. And thankfully it worked!

CAN Pong Game


Andy Bestwick and Makani Taniguchi. Makani and Andy became good friends as participants in Leadership Kauai. Makani is becoming an incredible presenter and has participated in several of Spirit of CAN. collaborations including our summer Science of CAN. camp.

The game:                                                    

The students were divided into three teams. Each team had to shoot balls into their own assigned grouping of cups. Large grouping, medium, and a small grouping of just two cups. 

The game was designed for each team to have very different experiences.

The objective of the game was to throw the ping pong ball into the cups to score points.  After the game, the students were asked to discuss the game in terms of strategy, fairness, and overall experience. We didn’t tell them what the game was to represent. That was revealed after the game by way of having the students turn the cups around to reveal the various types of people we have in our support systems, ohana, teacher, coach, friend, neighbor, etc.

CAN pong explination

This was followed by a discussion on the importance of valuing our cups, which represent the people who support and love us, and how we can get more cups by being kind and compassionate towards others. The game served as a metaphor for life, where we need to rely on the support of others and be there for them in return.

Overall, the game was a creative and engaging way to introduce the concept of compassion to 7th graders and help them understand the importance of having a support system and supporting others.

After the icebreaker, we shared our personal stories about how bullying has affected us or someone we know. I shared my experience of being bullied in middle school and how it's always stuck with me. And Makani shared how he became a bully to others who later came back into his life holding onto feelings about being bullied for many years. This was a powerful exercise that helped the students understand the real-life impact of bullying and the importance of promoting kindness and respect towards others.

Kapaa middle school CAN.


After the presentation Makani and I met with Allyn Scott, MSW from Kapa`a Middle School and Alice Luck, President of Kauai Planning & Action Alliance for a debrief. Allyn shared survey results from the students. We were pretty stoked to not only hear they performed a survey, but that results were pretty solid.

Thank you letter from 7th grader



These responses show that the students were able to take away important lessons from the presentation and that they understand the importance of promoting kindness and respect towards others.

Overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to have given this presentation and to have worked with such a great team. It's important to continue to promote kindness and compassion in schools, and I hope that our presentation was able to make a positive impact on the students. Thank you for reading!

What’s next?                                   
 We we’re invited back to take on another important value, “confidence,” and collaborate further with these awesome students. 

 Lastly, a big MAHALO our good friend Franci Davila, LCSW and Co-founder of Kaua`i Mental Health Advocates. She made the connection and has always had our backs!

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