Junior School (K – 8)
Punahou’s Junior School encompasses Kindergarten through eighth grade. The Principal, two Assistant Principals and six Administrative Deans oversee the Junior School faculty and approximately 2,000 students.
Grade by Grade
Kindergarten and first grade in the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood is designed as a two-year experience. Each of six Kindergarten classrooms adjoins a neighboring first-grade class. As these Kindergarten students learn and grow with their own two classroom teachers (primary and assistant), they become familiar with the teachers and classroom next door, where they will move together as a class the following year.
Embracing the curious, inquisitive and emerging learner, Kindergarten at Punahou offers authentic, child-centered opportunities that empower students to grow in confidence throughout the year. It is a place where teachers are “awakeners” who offer experiences, possibilities and structure to the wonderings and pursuits of children. 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.
Embracing the natural energy and inquisitiveness of the first-grade learner, the second year of a child’s Punahou experience is about kindling and stoking the inner fire that students have for learning in an integrative way. Further, they are provided with the space and time to be creative, curious risk-takers, and experiment with independence. Exposure to new learning is developed at a personal level, allowing students with a variety of opportunities to 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.
K – Grade 1
Curriculum is focused on literacy, numeracy and self-concept; and inquiry-based learning is connected thematically with the concept of “Our Island Home,” alternating between mauka and makai topics each year. Curricular design is heavily influenced by values of play-based experiential learning, indoor and outdoor learning, and sustainability.
Core components also include PE, outdoor education, music and art, with specialist teachers dedicated solely to the K – 1 neighborhood, as well as gardening, Mandarin language (1st grade) and a once-per-cycle chapel focusing on character education. Students begin to learn the use of educational technology with one-to-one iPads that stay at school.
In December, Kindergarteners spread holiday cheer by caroling across campus. In March, first-graders put on their spring music program; and all students K – 1 perform mele and hula in Punahou’s schoolwide May Day celebration.
Challenging students to become independent learners and enabling them to discover what they are capable of academically and socially in a safe, kind and caring environment characterizes the student experience in second grade. Teachers are facilitators who provide joyful, rich and diverse opportunities for learning content, while fostering critical thinking, problem solving and risk-taking. Over the course of students’ second-grade year, we aspire to develop mindful, flexible learners who embrace success, are resilient in the face of challenge, and can demonstrate care and empathy for the communities in which they live, work and play.
For most students, the move to second grade is a transition to a larger world, as they leave their familiar K – 1 classmates, teachers and neighborhood. 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.
The curriculum centers around interdependence, with experiential learning around island systems, the origins of Hawai’i’s immigrants and a variety of cultures, with a particular focus on Japan.
Core components also include PE, outdoor education, music and art, as well as Japanese language, a once-per-cycle chapel and SEEL curriculum that works toward building empathy, developing collaborative skills and understanding how the students fit together as a community.
Teachers collaborate with Educational Technologists for regular makerspace time, and students (grades 2 and 3) can sign up for lunchtime “drop-in makery” design challenges. Students also continue to develop their skills with one-to-one iPads and begin to learn basic coding.
In December, second-graders put on a holiday music and drama program, a multicultural celebration of Christmastime in Hawai’i; and all students perform in Punahou’s schoolwide May Day celebration.
Being pono and living aloha are central to the culturally-grounded, place-based, hands-on experiences that students have in third grade. Teachers nourish a growing independence and greater responsibility students have as learners, classmates and members of the Punahou ‘ohana. A multi-faceted approach is utilized, allowing for thoughtful personalization and unique, meaningful learning. Standing strong in the face of challenge and leaning on a community that values the importance of “others” over “self” characterizes the joyful, special and ultimately rewarding year that students have in third grade.
Third-graders remain in the Kosasa Community, as they move into their new classroom, meet new teachers and make new friends.
The curriculum is focused on connections and is heavily rooted in Hawaiian studies, as well as the greater Polynesian triangle. Experiential learning includes field trips to Ko’olau Poku, studying the geology and water cycle of the ahupua’a.
Core components also include PE, outdoor education, music and art, as well as once-per-cycle ‘olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language), mele, chapel, drama (incorporated in chapel) and SEEL curriculum that continues to build empathy and develop social- and self-awareness, responsibility and decision-making skills.
Teachers collaborate with Educational Technologists for regular makerspace time, and students (grades 2 and 3) can sign up for lunchtime “drop-in makery” design challenges. Students also continue to develop their skills with one-to-one iPads.
Much of this year is spent in preparation for the third-grade lū’au in March, for which students grow and prepare their own traditional Hawaiian food, make their own ipu, share mele and play traditional makahiki games. Third-graders also perform in Punahou’s schoolwide May Day celebration.
In fourth grade – a child’s final year to learn in a self-contained classroom environment at Punahou – 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.
Fourth grade welcomes 50 new students to Punahou, raising the overall grade size to 200. New students are paired with a Punahou buddy, to help them acclimate to new surroundings and jump-start friendships. Students move in to Castle Hall, though the Class of 2028 will stay in the Kosasa Community, as construction is completed for the 2019 –2020 school year.
The curriculum centers around adaptation, with continuing inquiry into water systems, and a look at Native Americans and explorers.
Core components also include PE (including swimming), outdoor education, Hawaiian studies, music and art, as well as once-per-cycle chapel, drama (incorporated in chapel) and SEEL curriculum that continues to build empathy and responsibility, and introduces human growth and development (same gender only).
Teachers collaborate with Educational Technologists for regular makerspace time, and students expand their technology skills with one-to-one laptop computers. As educational technology becomes more essential to classwork and homework, students learn more about responsibility, and safe and ethical use.
In March, Punahou (and Punahou families) hosts 16 students from partner school Keio Yochisha Elementary School in Tokyo, Japan, for a valuable cultural exchange (a reciprocal trip is available to 16 Punahou students in the summer after fifth grade). The spring also features a combined music and arts program, followed by an all-student performance in Punahou’s schoolwide May Day celebration.
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.
At fifth grade, classroom dynamics begin to change and the first elements of choice emerge. Students have a homeroom teacher and a “switch” teacher, each one of the pair teaching either math and science, or humanities and social studies. Fifth-graders are housed in Castle Hall, though the Class of 2027 will move back to the Kosasa Community, as construction is completed for the 2019 –2020 school year.
The curriculum cover topics of continuity and change, and looks at colonization and the Revolutionary War.
Core components also include PE (including swimming), outdoor education, Hawaiian studies, music and art, as well as once-per-cycle chapel, drama (incorporated in chapel) and SEEL curriculum that explores resilience, personal learning styles, relationships, and human growth and development (male and female). Teachers collaborate with Educational Technologists for regular makerspace time, and students continue to build proficiency with their laptop computers.
Music offers students a choice of band, orchestra or music exploration, with an option to add choir. Students also start to see more opportunities for co-curricular activities like drama club, lunch basketball or Lego robotics.
After the winter break, students experience the much-anticipated 3-day Hawai'i Island trip, as part of the outdoor education program. The spring features an experiential math/science project, where students participate in a Challenger (space shuttle) simulation at Barber’s Point. The spring also brings performance opportunities for band, orchestra and choir, followed by an all-student performance in Punahou’s schoolwide May Day celebration
The summer following the year offers some travel opportunities, including an east coast historical exploration, and a trip to partner school Keio Yochia Elementary School in Tokyo, Japan.
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.
The curriculum incorporates a variety of tangible, visible experiences with units like biomimicry, exploring Mesopotamia, and engineering design challenges. Physical education, music, outdoor education, chapel and required “elective” courses in art, culinary arts, and woodshop round out the curricular experience. As an introduction to true elective courses, non-graded Exploratories are offered during study hall. Offerings vary, but may include:
- App Time
- Beekeepers of Punahou
- E Lei Kau
- Mad Lab 6 (making and discovery lab)
- Movie Making
- Musical Theater 6
Musical performances transition from class-based (in grade 5 and under) to ensembles of choir, orchestra and band. Students may also opt to perform in the annual May Day celebration.
A four-day, three-night experience at Camp Palehua (formerly Timberline) is one of many memories that children will remember from their year.
Social events for the year include team-based activities and a sixth-grade Fun Day (a whole-family event).
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. Seventh grade is the first year that students receive traditional grades in their report cards.
Student schedules include small-group (13 or 14) advisory time with advisors including core teachers and language, PE, music and art faculty, to talk about student needs and help make a big school feel smaller. In advisory, teachers cover various topics such as academic issues, resiliency or organizational skills, or activities like community service.
Formal study of a second language (choice of Chinese, French, Hawaiian, Japanese, Latin or Spanish) begins, along with continued required physical education, art, music and elective courses. Choice of language and electives gives students the opportunity to personalize their schedules and pursue interests.
- The Art of Engineering I
- Beekeepers of Punahou
- Coding Exploration
- E Lei Kau
- Food for Thought
- Improvisation 7
- Introduction to Coding
- Kitchen Gardeners
- Musical Theater 7
- News Journalism 7
- PG-13: Personal Growth at 13... for Girls
- Sew What?
- Shop I
- Techspertise 7
Outdoor education experiences in the form of three "day camps" are directly tied to both affective and curricular goals, and provide a relevant context for student learning. Students also have several travel opportunities, including Space Camp and international exchange trips to partner schools in Japan and China.
Seventh grade offers eligibility for intermediate ILH athletics play through 38 teams in 15 different sports. Socially, the year also features three canteens (multi-activity social events on campus).
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.
Student schedules include small-group (13 or 14) advisory time, to talk about student needs and help make a big school feel smaller. In advisory, teachers cover various topics such as academic issues, resiliency or organizational skills, or activities like community service.
Formal study of a second language (choice of Chinese, French, Hawaiian, Japanese, Latin or Spanish) continues, along with required physical education, art, music, and elective courses. Choice of language and electives gives students the opportunity to personalize their schedules and pursue interests.
- The Art of Engineering I
- The Art of Engineering II
- Building Apps with Java
- Digital Art
- Digital Photography
- DJ 101
- Drawing and Painting
- Exploration of Dance
- E Lei Kau
- Food for Thought
- Green Architecture and Design
- Improvisation 8
- Musical Theatre
- Na ‘Opio (yearbook)
- News Journalism
- Outdoor Art
- Principles of Technology
- Shop I
- Shop II
- Technical Theater Workshop
- Wearable Art
A capstone experience at Camp Mokule‘ia is the culmination of an outdoor education journey in which students acquire a unique set of outdoor skills, a connection to the natural world, growth in independence, social awareness, responsibility, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Students also have several travel opportunities, including Space Camp and international exchange trips to partner schools in Japan, China and Sweden.
Socially, the year features two canteens (multi-activity social events on campus) and an eighth-grade dance in the spring. On the last day of school, eighth graders put on a special culminating chapel, celebrating the end of a journey through the Junior School.