Summer Orientation Sessions Help Beat First-Day Jitters

Communications Staff

July 11, 2017

When the beginning of the school year rolls around in late August, hundreds of students in kindergarten to grade 12 will set foot on campus as new Punahou students. This first day of school can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, especially for those unfamiliar with the campus.

Thanks to several Summer School orientation sessions, newly accepted students are able to acclimate to the novel environment by meeting teachers, learning alongside fellow new students and discovering many of the traditions that make Punahou unique.

Orientation sessions begin in kindergarten and progress through the Junior School entry levels at grades 4, 6 and 7, continuing into the Academy through the Mālama Bridge Program, which provides a strong foundation for the study skills and work habits needed to excel at Punahou.

Summer orientation sessions help students feel like they’re a part of their new School. Grade-specific orientation sessions focus on elements that are distinct to each level, from the facilities to the technology that the student will encounter in the coming year. Students also learn Punahou mele, cheers and oli.

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One purpose of the fourth-grade orientation is to provide a background in Hawaiian culture. Punahou students learn about Hawaiian culture in third grade, while the topic isn’t covered until fourth grade in the Hawai‘i Department of Education curriculum, meaning students coming from public schools might otherwise miss those important place-based lessons.

“After an orientation class, students come to school calm because they know many of the teachers and they’re familiar with the buildings, chants, songs and cheers,” said grade 6 teacher Malia Chong ’87, who leads an orientation class over the summer. The sixth-grade orientation, which includes outdoor activities like hiking, swimming and PE, is also an opportunity for teachers to innovative curriculum and introduce students to a range of subjects.

Punahou sixth-graders are responsible for caring for Ka Papa Mala, the Academy garden, so a portion of their orientation session is geared toward learning about the space and preparing it for the new year. A recent afternoon found the group harvesting tomatoes and beets, clearing weeds and uprooting corn patches. “It’s another way to get to know their new home,” Chong reflected.

The seventh-grade classes have a larger focus on academics than the younger grade levels “based on the input from teachers,” explained Gentry Hirohata, who leads the orientation session for grade 7. “We want students to feel confident that they’re prepared to be academically successful,” Hirohata continued.

To this end, the orientation session is structured much like the regular seventh-grade school day, complete with homework and high expectations from teachers, and exposes students to inquiry projects. The inquiry projects are deliberately designed to weave in technology so that students have experience using important software resources like Google Drive and PowerPoint. In addition to the core curriculum, service projects are integrated into the five-week program, as well as art and PE.

The importance of academic preparation plays an even greater role in the Academy Mālama Bridge Program, where study skills and research methods are taught in all subjects. Content-wise, the orientation covers a broad range of material, introducing students to some core subjects they’ll encounter throughout high school: English, social studies and math. The Mālama Bridge Program “hopes to inspire students to achieve and thrive at Punahou by creating a sense of community, possibility and opportunity,” explained Academy math teacher Lynn Kunishige, who organizes the program.

Regardless of grade level or activity, whether it’s outdoor exploration through “Kindergarten Experience” or creating historical presentations in Mālama Bridge, the ultimate goal is to ensure that students are comfortable and prepared for their new school this fall.

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