The Punahou Journey

Instilling in students a true passion for learning throughout a lifetime is the ultimate aim of a Punahou education.

A Punahou education celebrates diversity and inspires excellence all while recognizing the individuality of each child. Students move through their path from kindergarten through grade 12 in developmentally appropriate ways with care from teachers and staff that help make a large school feel smaller. Students are supported in self-discovery and develop character traits and habits of mind that prepare them to make a difference in the world.

List of 5 items.

  • Personalized Learning

    A student-centered classroom puts students in charge of their own learning, letting their natural curiosity, wonder and imagination lead them. Along the way, students come to understand how they learn best and gain an internal motivation and passion about their own learning. As a result, learning becomes more meaningful and students remember what they’ve learned into the future.

    A competency-based learning approach is one way Punahou has emphasized personalized learning. With different options for assessing students on what they’ve learned, competency-based learning supports the unique learning path of every individual student.
  • Core Curriculum

    The educational program sets standards that are rigorous, challenging and age appropriate. As students move through grade levels guided by highly qualified faculty, multiple paths in core subjects ensure that students are intellectually stimulated and moving at a pace that’s appropriate for them.
  • Integrated Curriculum

    Learning across disciplines is valued at Punahou because it encourages the type of thinking needed for real-life problem-solving. Throughout the K – 8 experience, the single classroom and team structures allow for collaboration on cross-disciplinary projects, while the Academy, organized by departments, offers multiple approaches to learning through combined courses and class projects.
  • Inquiry-based Learning

    Through inquiry-based learning, students engage with real-world problems in a meaningful way by posing questions, testing assumptions, and drawing conclusions about the world around them. Teachers design these experiences to provide structure for progress and growth as students develop skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship.
  • Modular Schedule

    Punahou’s modular schedule runs on a six-day cycle from A – F. Each cycle day rotates so that it lands on a different day of the week. It’s a unique schedule that has been in place since the spring of 1970.

    In the Junior School, curricular sections and special classes (music, art, chapel, etc.) typically follow a pattern based on these cycle days.

    For Academy students, this customized schedule offers the opportunity to develop personal responsibility, make use of time between classes and activities, and pursue interests from a selection of core academic classes and a variety of electives.

Junior School

Punahou’s Junior School, encompassing kindergarten through eighth grade, is comprised of three varied learning environments: Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5, and Case Middle School, for students in grades 6 – 8. The Junior School Principal, two Assistant Principals, six Administrative Deans and Junior School faculty support approximately 2,000 students in their journey through the Junior School, building confidence and independence along the way.

List of 9 items.

  • Kindergarten

    Developing a love for learning – whether it be through play, personalization or exploration – along with becoming respectful, empathetic, collaborative members of a larger community, is at the heart of a place where teachers learn alongside students every day, and where love and kindness are valued.
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  • Grade 1

    The second year of a child’s Punahou experience is about providing the space and time to be creative, curious risk-takers, and experiment with independence. Students take an in-depth exploration into ideas and concepts that are of interest to them, as well as those that will be foundational to their future learning.
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  • Grade 2

    As students leave their familiar K – 1 classmates, teachers and neighborhood, the move to second grade is a transition to a larger world. Students join their new teacher in the Kosasa Grades 2 – 5 Community, with a new classroom mix that typically includes at least a few of their first grade classroom group.
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  • Grade 3

    Third-graders remain in the Kosasa Community, as they move into their new classroom, meet new teachers and make new friends. The curriculum’s focus on connections and Hawaiian and Polynesian studies gives students culturally-grounded, place-based and hands-on experiences.
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  • Grade 4

    In fourth grade, goals for students include finding a passion, building a solid skill set, being active learners who can advocate for themselves, and becoming deeper thinkers. Experiences are ever-evolving and varied, yet impactful and designed to develop an intrinsic love for learning. A team of caring teachers strives to provide opportunities to learn through extended projects that balance independence and collaboration, develop inquiry skills, and constitute a meaningful challenge.
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  • Grade 5

    Fifth grade is about helping students practice, refine and grow their skills, and is a year where they are encouraged and expected to be more independent in their learning, requiring less guidance and support from adults and teachers. Students try on new roles, explore themselves and how they fit in with their peer group. They start identifying with peers more than adults and are becoming aware – and making sense of – a complicated world. Our fifth grade program tries to recognize this as it helps students navigate their social, emotional and academic worlds.
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  • Grade 6

    In sixth grade, 88 new students join returning Punahou students, bringing the grade to around 290 students in total. Students are each placed on a four-teacher team of 96 students for their core (English, math, science, social studies) classes, one of whom serves as a child's homeroom teacher. These teams reside in Weinberg Hall and Wodehouse Hall, part of the Case Middle School facility.
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  • Grade 7

    In seventh grade, an influx of 90 new students brings the class total to about 370. Students are each placed on a four-teacher team of 92 students for their core (English, math, science, social studies) classes, housed in Higgins Hall and Yamane Family Hall, in the Case Middle School facility.
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  • Grade 8

    Eighth-grade students are each placed on a four-teacher team of 92 students for their core (English, math, science, social studies) classes, housed in Leong Hall and Miyawaki Family Hall, in the Case Middle School facility. Students rotate through their core classes independently, each classroom having a different mix of students. This intentional departure from classrooms rotating together as a group is designed to help students transition to the Academy experience in ninth grade.
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Academy (9 – 12)

The Principal, Assistant Principals and two Deans per grade level oversee Academy students. Each dean pair moves with their class of more than 425 students through the four years in the Academy. Classroom size averages 18 – 22 students, with some smaller seminars and labs, and larger lectures. 

Academy students have increasing levels of choice during the four high school years. They select courses from an extensive catalog, personalizing the mix of classes in a modular schedule.

With the student at the center of the Academy curriculum, the goal is to provide students an environment and variety of experiences that will enable them to develop the skills and attitudes necessary for success as lifelong, independent learners prepared to contribute to their community and make a difference.

College preparatory graduation requirements include credits in English, language, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and visual and performing arts. Each year, 99% of graduates go on to college.

List of 4 items.

  • Freshman

    Each year, 72 newly-admitted students join Punahou to help form a freshman class of around 425 to begin their journey in the Academy.

    The curriculum is largely pre-set, with some elements of choice. Students take at least five academic courses including English, math, language, biology and social studies courses, but may opt for additional courses in arts or PE, all of which are required for graduation. Students who fulfill requirements in summer school naturally have greater flexibility to exercise choice.
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  • Sophomore

    Following a transitional freshman year, a student’s sophomore year at Punahou continues with a similar curricular experience, but with a bit more choice and a new focus on personal growth. With more freedom in their schedule, students rely on, and further develop, their study skills and time management practices.
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  • Junior

    The junior year at Punahou is both fun and challenging, with a focus on leadership development and preparation for college. Compared to their sophomore year, a student’s choice of courses grows significantly, as do the academic rigor and expectations.
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  • Senior

    While a students senior year is focused on graduation and preparation for college, it is also a time of reflection and celebration of their journey at Punahou.
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