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 to 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.

The following 2021 – 2022 course information will assist you in understanding course selection procedures and requirements for graduation. Punahou awards a diploma to each student who earns at least 22 credits during four years of high school and who meets the course requirements described in this catalog. It is the responsibility of each student to take all required courses needed to meet graduation requirements.

Browse Academy Course Listings

Curriculum Information

List of 17 items.

  • Art

    The Visual Art curriculum extends beyond skills, techniques and concepts. The faculty provide environments that promote purposeful exploration towards the creation of visual expressions. Our intent is to have students develop the habits of mind and practice which allow them to become curious, confident and resilient individuals devoted to enriching the world and the lives of people around them.

    Graduation Requirements
    Students must earn two credits in the Visual and Performing Arts. All Art Department courses may be taken to fulfill the Visual and Performing Arts requirement or elective credit. Courses taken to fulfill the Visual and Performing Arts graduation requirement must be taken for a grade; courses taken for elective credit may earn either a letter grade or Credit/No Credit.
  • Design Technology and Engineering

    The Punahou Design Technology and Engineering department operates a student-centered, school-wide environment designed to empower development of social-emotional skills, technical abilities and applied design processes needed to translate the Aims of a Punahou Education into positive and purposeful action in the real world.
    Students have access to cutting edge labs and workshops, faculty support and mentorship across the campus. They can access resources through courses, clubs, classroom integration and independent projects.

    Design thinking is one of two central systems students use to organize their creative activity into meaningful action. The design thinking model emphasizes developing a deep understanding of an issue or a person before defining specifications, brainstorming solutions, creating prototypes and testing potential solutions to learn more about the user. Each phase of the design cycle is strongly linked to habits of mind such as resilience to failure, life-long learning and openness to new ideas which are key components of our direct instruction.
    Kū Hala is the other primary design system at Punahou. Kū Hala is a placed-based approach to design that emphasizes enviro-personal learning and moves through phases of inspiration, creation and release. This system is highly specific to Hawaii and Punahou but is based on a conceptual framework that any group can use to understand design in their personal context.

    The K – 12 engineering program offers students a continuous and articulated set of technical skill building experiences. It is important that as their understanding of problems and challenges in the world grows, so too does their ability to design, build, test and deploy increasingly realistic and sustainable solutions to those problems. Technical experiences include access to rapid prototyping technologies such as CAD software, CNC output machines, 3-D printers, laser cutters, CNC water jets, coding, electronics, robotics and virtual reality but also are inclusive of traditional building skills such as sewing, woodcraft, cooking, gardening, sail making and metal fabrication.

    The department is committed to direct instruction for the development of social-emotional skills, which enable students to understand themselves, work in groups to solve problems and to develop the complex and critical ability to empathize with clients, fellow designers and people from different cultures. Even more importantly, social-emotional skills transcend the design process and are critical to developing the character needed to live the Aims of a Punahou Education.

    New Courses Satisfying Science Graduation Requirements
    • Engineering III: Industrial Design and
    • Fabrication
    • Engineering III: Advanced Robotics
    • Engineering IV: Electric Vehicle Team
  • English

    The goal of the Academy English Department is to teach students to read compassionately, think exactingly, write clearly and gracefully, and act with the compassion, exactitude, clarity and grace they derive from their engagement with the English language and with literature. We believe offering students a wide variety of curricular challenges in language and literature will increase their capacity for perception, feeling, reason and tolerance, nourish their imaginations and inspire their actions.

    Graduation Requirements
    1. Four credits are required for graduation.
    2. Students must earn 2 credits total in English in their junior and senior years.
    3. Every student must take at least one American Literature course.
  • Global Online Academy

    Punahou School is a founding member of the Global Online Academy (GOA). Established in 2011, GOA offers diverse and rigorous credit-bearing courses to students in member schools around the world. All GOA courses have synchronous components (when students collaborate together or work with their teacher at a set time, generally using video conferencing software) and asynchronous components (students choose when to participate.)

    GOA students participate in a truly global classroom, learning alongside peers with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Courses are designed, developed and taught by teachers from member schools and meet the rigor and high quality for which these schools are well-known. Credit is awarded by Punahou for participating Punahou students.
     
    GOA courses are equivalent to an honors or AP course in amount of work and time necessary to complete the course. The 2020 - 2021 courses offer elective credit at Punahou. Semester courses earn one-half credit and year courses earn one credit.

    Learn More
  • Independent Inquiry

    The Independent Inquiry Program creates opportunities for students to further realize the Aim of a “broad and vigorous program of studies characterized by high expectations for exploration, growth and mastery” (Aims of a Punahou Education). Students’ imagination and passions are the limit for the design of the learning and elective credit may be earned in any of our departments. These projects can be an extension or expansion of the course offerings in different disciplines.
    Students may apply for Independent Inquiry by contacting their Deans and the Advisor of the Program during programming.

    Project proposals are submitted and reviewed by the Independent Inquiry committee in February – March for the following school year. Students enroll in independent inquiry on a semester basis and earn one-half elective credit per semester. Students may complete more than one independent inquiry but may not be enrolled in more than one during any given semester.
  • Language

    The Academy Language Department offers a range of language choices such as Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, French and Spanish. The department supports the Mission and Aims of Punahou School and the proficiency standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The goals for our students are the following:
    • To develop proficiency in an additional language and culture.
    • To foster positive global perspectives.
    • To promote empathic, compassionate and responsible global citizenship.
    Graduation Requirements
    A minimum study of two consecutive levels of a single language in the Academy is required. It is usually recommended students continue studying the same language until he or she obtains the highest level of proficiency possible.
  • Mathematics

    Mathematics is offered in the Academy at three levels: Honors (H), Regular and Basic College Prep (BCP). The level of study for each student is determined by past performance in mathematics courses. The Honors courses are for those students who have done very well in previous mathematics courses. Students must be highly motivated and able to quickly understand and easily apply new concepts. The Regular courses provide a thorough study of Algebra, Geometry and Pre-Calculus. The Basic College Prep courses are for students who find the regular level of mathematics challenging. The BCP curriculum covers all the basic material in Algebra, Geometry and Pre-Calculus at a pace suitable for the needs of the students.

    All levels of mathematics require students to reinforce the work done in class so they will acquire the skills necessary to progress through a sequential course of study. Practice problems are assigned at each class meeting and tests are given regularly. Semester examinations are given at the end of both semesters in most of the core courses, except Advanced Placement courses, which do not have a second semester exam.

    The elective courses provide enrichment topics. The material covered in the Money Management requires students to use the skills developed in Mathematics the core courses. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered in Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Statistics. A student enrolled in an AP course is required to take the AP examination in that subject in May and the fee for the Advanced Placement exam will be charged to the student’s account. The exam is written, administered and assessed by the College Board.

    Faculty in the Mathematics Department use technology, when appropriate, to deepen understanding and enhance productivity. Classrooms are equipped with Apple TVs. All students in Algebra 2/Trigonometry and subsequent courses are required to own a graphing calculator. Students may purchase any TI-84 Plus calculator, but a TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator is recommended for some courses as indicated in the course descriptions.

    Graduation Requirements
    Three years of study in the core courses are required for graduation. Typically, a student will study Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2/Trigonometry; or Geometry Algebra 2/Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus as the minimum for their graduation requirements. Almost all students choose to study four years of mathematics.
     
    A student may take only one summer school course in mathematics. It is recommended that students who wish to accelerate their study of mathematics take Geometry in the summer between Algebra 1 and Algebra 2/Trigonometry. Students must receive a grade of B+ or better in both semesters of the prerequisite course to be eligible to take a summer school course for acceleration.
  • Music

    Because music is an innate and distinct form of human thinking and expression, students are offered a variety of courses which focus on, but are not limited to, one of the three fundamental music processes – performing, creating and responding to music. Students:
    • Acquire skills in singing or playing instruments, improvising, composing, reading and notating music that support life-long participation and appreciation of music that supports its value in the broader community
    • Acquire knowledge and understanding to describe, analyze and evaluate music and music performances.
    • Discover their historical and cultural heritage and make connections with other cultures and disciplines as an expression of the human spirit through music making.
    • Develop healthy personal attitudes through music making, including focus and independence; risktaking; persistence and resilience; creativity; collaboration and empathy.
    Graduation Requirements
    Students must earn two credits in Visual and Performing Arts. All Music Department courses may be taken to fulfill the Visual and Performing Arts graduation requirement or elective credit. Courses taken to fulfill the Visual and Performing Arts requirement must be taken for a letter grade; courses taken for elective credit may earn either a letter grade or Credit/No Credit.
  • Non-Departmental

    Businesses, Organizations and Society
    This course gives students a broad understanding of business situations. The course looks at effective individuals and organizations and how they manage success or failure. The use of business school cases, articles and current events give greater insight into the decision-making behind products and services seen and used every day. Business leaders from the Hawai‘i community are brought in to speak to students and answer questions relevant to familiar companies and current topics.
     
    This course gives students a rudimentary familiarity with product development, marketing and finance. However, technical business issues are not a topic of this course. Instead, elements of leadership, decision-making, strategy, value and entrepreneurship are discussed. This course is for the student who has thought about starting his or her own business and/or has considered business school after college. The instructors are leaders in the Hawai‘i business community and are successful entrepreneurs, trained in business, finance, management and more, whose goal is to prepare students with a broad understanding of the dynamics of organizations and businesses they will inevitably face later in life.
     
    Open to grades 11, 12. Semester course (Fall semester). One-half credit. Satisfies general elective credit.

    JROTC Course Offerings
    Junior ROTC is voluntary for all physically qualified girls and boys who are at least 14 years of age. All enrolled students are furnished complete uniforms, books and other necessary equipment free of charge. Such equipment is on loan from the United States Army and must be returned at the end of the year or sooner if a student withdraws from the course.

    JROTC classes meet two times per cycle in the classroom. Leadership labs are conducted once per cycle, schedule permitting, during the school day. Cadets completing three or four years of JROTC are entitled to placement credit toward completion of Senior ROTC courses. JROTC offers additional and enhanced opportunities for those students who desire to compete for college ROTC scholarships, which are worth up to $100,000.

    The JROTC program offers competitive nominations to West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy to outstanding cadets who qualify. These appointments are in addition to the regular Congressional and Presidential appointments.
    Participation in JROTC does not incur any service or monetary obligation to the U.S. Government.

    Through this course, students gain insight into ethical values and principles that underlie good citizenship and leadership, including: examining the respect given constituted authority and the responsibility and integrity authority requires; developing leadership potential; becoming familiar with the history, purpose, and structure of the military services and their links with political policy; meeting physical challenges and appreciating the importance of physical fitness in maintaining good health; critical thinking, effective oral and written communication, and defending choices thoughtfully.
    Strong emphasis is placed on individual leadership, responsibility, and service.

    During the second, third, and fourth year, students are designated as cadet officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Cadets who successfully complete two years of JROTC are awarded one-half credit of Physical Education under the Fitness through Independent Training (FIT) program.
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  • Physical Education

    Physical Education is pumping – the heart, that is. Whether choosing to be fit, learning a new game, developing specific skills or just having fun with friends, movement is at the heart of leading a physically active lifestyle.

    The goal of the Academy Physical Education Department is to help students develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity. Empowering students to take control of their personal fitness is a primary goal of the Physical Education program.

    A physically literate individual:
    • Demonstrates competency in a variety of skills.
    • Applies knowledge of movement concepts and principles.
    • Demonstrates a health-enhancing level of fitness.
    • Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior.
    • Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge and self-expression.
    The Physical Education Department encourages students to experience a variety of activities that complement their personal interests and challenge them physically.

    Graduation Requirements
    Two credits are required for graduation. There are four categories from which students may choose to earn their credits: In School (ISPE), After School (ASPE), Athletics (ILH), and Summer School.
     
    All students are required to take Lifetime Fitness. It is a fitness-related course, offered during regular school hours as well as during summer school and must be completed by the end of the tenth grade year.
     
    It is highly recommended Lifetime Fitness be taken before any ISPE course. Students may not take two ISPE courses concurrently.
    Read More
  • Science

    The Academy Science Department provides students with the opportunity to learn to use the scientific process to acquire, assimilate, extend, refine and apply scientific knowledge. Students learn to identify problems, ask questions, analyze data, think clearly and logically and draw appropriate conclusions. Students have the opportunity to develop an understanding of the basic concepts of Biology, Chemistry and Physics in our inquiry-based college-preparatory program.

    Two year-long courses are required to meet Punahou’s graduation requirements. However, the Science Department strongly recommends students take a minimum of three years, in part to meet minimum course requirements for college admission. To meet the wide range of abilities and interests of Punahou students, the department offers Advanced Placement courses, Honors level courses and fundamental courses.

    The rich variety of elective courses includes single semester inquiries in areas of physical and biological sciences. The Science Department encourages students to explore the many diverse electives offered.

    Graduation Requirements
    Students must complete two yearlong laboratory courses in science to graduate. One of those two years must be taken in the tenth grade or beyond; only one of the two courses may be taken in Summer School. Of these two years, the Science Department recommends one year be in the physical sciences and the other in the biological sciences.
  • Social Studies

    Grounded in the Aims of a Punahou Education, the Academy Social Studies curriculum is devoted to providing a learning environment in which students:
    • Become literate, aware and concerned citizens, learning how to function as positive, contributing members of society
    • Cultivate empathy and moral attitudes to inspire and encourage students to take moral action
    • Foster creativity, critical thinking and collaboration as skills necessary to meet the demands and challenges of the global community
    • Understand relationships between people, events, geography and cultural conditions in today’s interconnected world
    • Derive historical significance from events through understanding the impact of the past on the present and future
    • Develop a sense of the Hawaiian culture and their unique cultural identities along with an appreciation of diversity and perspectives
    • Cultivate the qualities of curiosity, resourcefulness and resilience
    • Are encouraged to reach and express their own conclusions, hone oral and written communication skills and develop media and information literacy
    Graduation Requirements
    Three and one-half credits must be earned, beginning with a required “Gateway” course taken in the ninth grade which may be either Introduction to Social Studies (one-half credit), World Civilizations (one credit) or a Global Sustainability by Design course (one credit). After completing the Gateway course, students must take at least one semester of Asian History in grade 10, one of the yearlong U.S. History options in grade 11 and both European History and Senior Capstone in grade 12.
    Only one credit in Summer School courses may be applied towards the three and one-half credits required for graduation.

    A student may take either ISS between eighth and ninth grades or Asian History between ninth and tenth grades, but not both; and either the first half of U.S. History between tenth and eleventh grades or either of the two required senior courses between eleventh and twelfth grades, but not both.
  • Summer School

    Academy Summer School provides a unique opportunity for enrolled Punahou students to fulfill graduation requirements in a focused and immersive learning environment. Summer School allows students to focus on one or two courses at a time. Rather than fulfilling a remedial requirement, Academy Summer School opens up possibilities for students to broaden their course selection during the school year.

    Summer School courses taken in 2020 are entered as part of the student’s 2020 – 2021 first semester record. Students register based on the grade they are entering in the fall.
    Summer School registration for credit courses is completed during each student’s individual programming conference with their Deans in February. Summer School courses may be overenrolled and, due to limited space, students are not guaranteed their first choice in course selection. In such cases, priority is given to seniors first, then juniors and so on. All things being equal, a lottery may be held to determine which students are placed in a particular course.

    All course offerings are subject to sufficient enrollment. Students are notified of any new course offerings, deletions or prerequisite changes via their Class deans. Tuition and fees for Summer School are charged to the student’s account.
    Punahou students who take summer courses are expected to do so at Punahou unless an exception has been approved in advance by the deans.

    Please note courses are scheduled for varying lengths from three to six weeks. These options may allow students with travel plans or conflicting programs to still attend Summer School. Additionally, there is a selection of Global Online Academy (GOA) online courses for upperclassmen that do not require attendance on campus. These options allow students with travel plans or conflicting programs to still attend Summer School.

    Graduation Credits
    • English
      Students may take only two English courses in Summer School to fulfill the four credits required for graduation. They may take either English 1A between eighth and ninth grades or English 2A between ninth and tenth grades. Before their junior or senior years, they may take one offered elective.
    • Mathematics
      Students are required to earn three credits in mathematics for graduation from Punahou. Only one of those three credits may be earned in Summer School. Students often choose to take a mathematics course during the summer as a means to accelerate in math, opening the door to calculus in their senior year.
    • Science
      Students may take only one credit in Summer School towards the two credits in laboratory science required for graduation.
    • Social Studies
      Students may take only one credit in Summer School towards the three and one-half Social Studies credits required for graduation. A student may take either ISS between eighth and ninth grades or Asian History between ninth and tenth grades, but not both; and either the first half of U.S. History between tenth and eleventh grades or either of the two required senior courses between eleventh and twelfth grades, but not both.
    Learn More About Summer School
  • Support and Wellness (The S+Well)

    The mission of the Support + Wellness Department is to promote student awareness and life skills development around a variety of topics that affect health and well-being. An intentional effort is made to cultivate a classroom atmosphere uniquely different from other courses to effectively address and explore age-appropriate social and emotional topics. Topics include teen risk behavior, peer pressure, decisionmaking, stress and time management, interpersonal relationships, communication strategies and goal setting. An underlying goal is to create an empathetic, compassionate and resilient student body. Social Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEEL) skills are taught in various settings which provide students with leadership training and meaningful opportunities that include and extend the Punahou School community. The department provides proactive, experiential, academic and skills-based training addressing the psychological, social and emotional aspects of human development.
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  • Theatre

    The Punahou Theatre Department provides students with a stimulating blend of cultural diversity, intellectual vigor, and creative experience, in an intimate, safe, and supportive atmosphere. We provide rich and varied educational experiences in acting, movement, improvisation, storytelling and design training, enabling students to grow personally through creative expression, while strengthening their performance skills to the fullest. We believe theatre plays a critical role in nurturing the human spirit, and through their talents, students can inspire others to consider, reflect, and change the world.

    Our goals are to:
    • Develop a solid theatre vocabulary
    • Encompass and connect with local, global and historical contexts
    • Develop an individual and ensemble voice as an outlet for expression
    • Encourage creativity
    • Empower students to have a growth mindset in striving to realize their potential
    • Apply knowledge and skills towards approaching challenges in any situation (including but not limited to): identity, self-worth, patience, perseverance, empathy, humility, self-discipline, collaboration, resilience, determination and time management
    Graduation Requirements
    Students must earn two credits in the Visual and Performing Arts. All Theatre courses may be taken to fulfill Visual and Performing Arts requirements or elective credit.
  • Transdisciplinary Courses

    Transdisciplinary courses combine the key concepts and crucial skill sets from at least two disciplines into one course. Students practice exploring ideas or solving problems through the lenses of each discipline, while also striving to construct a lens that transcends the individual disciplines. These courses provide credits from more than one discipline. Many of these courses are taught using the competency based learning (CBL) model. CBL provides students the opportunity to define their learning in terms of key transdisciplinary competencies that deepen their capacity to collaborate, communicate, create, embrace challenge, empathize, engage with global perspective, honor self and place and think critically.
  • Travel and Study Abroad

    Recognizing that learning in global environments can be both academically and personally enriching, Punahou offers students a wide array of globally-focused programs both on-island and away.

    Summer Study Travel Programs
    These travel study programs are preceded by classes at Punahou. Some programs are subsidized through the Wo International Center’s funds and generous need-based financial aid is available to students. Deadlines for these programs vary because of required travel arrangements. All deadlines precede regular course programming with the deans, so students must plan ahead.

    Learn More at Wo International Center ›