This is a community full of warm aloha, and that feeling of care and connection infuses everything we do. From a foundation of confidence and security, our students are able to truly soar in their accomplishments.”
—Cathy Grant, Lower School principal
At the Lower School, we carefully integrate the K-5 experience to nurture and challenge our students holistically. In each classroom, the elementary teachers and educational assistants focus on mastery of core subjects, while also creating interdisciplinary connections that spark student curiosity. In addition, our subject-specialists work closely with classroom teachers to further enrich the curriculum with music, art, Hawaiian studies, and many other topics. We incorporate project-based learning across all grades to prepare students for a culminating capstone project in fifth grade. We embrace the vibrant ecology, geography, cultures, and communities of Hawai‘i Island to create unique, place-based learning experiences. The result is a rich and vibrant Lower School community, where every child is challenged and supported to explore their capabilities to the fullest extent.
We weave literacy into all classroom activities. Our goal is to help students become discerning, enthusiastic readers who enjoy a multiplicity of genres throughout their lives. We use the Readers’ Workshop model to teach reading strategies, support small-group work, and provide student choice and agency in their reading journey. Formal reading assessments are completed three times a year to assess accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Meanwhile, our expressive language curriculum prepares students to become articulate communicators using any medium they choose. We use the Writers’ Workshop model as we focus on oral communication skills and the mechanics of writing—key ingredients for the successful presentation of student projects.
Our mathematics curriculum is based on how children learn, what they are interested in, and the future for which they must be prepared. It emphasizes conceptual understanding alongside mastery of basic skills, including numbers and numeration; operations and computation; data and chance; measurement and reference frames; geometry, patterns, functions, and algebra. Our instructional model blends exposition and discussion, individual and group work, and investigative projects for all ages. Each grade level builds on and reaches for the next, so that students children approach each new challenge from a ﬁrmly established foundation.
We help our students begin to operate as real-world scientists, technologists, and environmentalists, with their investigations continually open to reﬂective discussion and study. Our teachers present questions or problems to consider; provide the necessary elements to test a hypothesis; oversee the documentation of observations and discoveries; then facilitate analysis and discussion. Science investigations involve a myriad of projects across our grade levels and frequently include sharing and analyzing results with the larger community.
Through a sense of historical perspective, cultural anthropology, and geographical study, we ask our students to be reﬂective about their responsibilities to each other, our island home, our state, and the larger world. Over time, we help them consider the informed and reasoned decisions necessary for citizenship in a democratic republic; stewardship of the land and sea; and cooperation within a globalized human society. We are fortunate that the diverse cultures and communities of Hawai‘i Island offer the perfect setting to explore the richness of human perspectives and what it means to be a global citizen in today’s world.
Projects and Capstones
With our emphasis on place-based, interdisciplinary learning, we regularly involve students in classroom projects. Through these in-depth experiences, children have a chance to exercise and demonstrate their skills and knowledge. Overall, project experiences build confidence and capacity as students move through our grade levels. In fifth grade, with guidance from their teacher, students will design, execute, and present a final capstone project as part of our signature K-12 capstone program. These projects represent the culmination of their Lower School experience and display aptitude and self-motivation our students have acquired.
Our visual arts curriculum inspires students discover, guide, and support their inner artist. Classes are held once a week. Units of study reflect the following themes: In Creating and Understanding Art, students learn the elements and principles of art, while exploring various media, techniques, concepts, and subject matter. In Art from Different Times and Places, the concepts of art history will be integrated with foundational lessons. In Art Tells a Story, students learn how to interpret messages within a work of art and the ways in which artists tell their stories through compositional choices. In Appreciating and Living with Art, the act of responding to a work of art enhances students’ understanding of its value. Additionally, the K-5 art curriculum allows for opportunities throughout the course of the year to combine art room learning with classroom learning, through an assortment of cross-curricular connections.
The performing arts are a gateway to public speaking, interpersonal cooperation, and collaborative group projects in the higher grades. Classes are held twice a week. Through opportunities to sing, dance, listen, and play musical instruments, and to study composers and musicians, students develop a lifelong appreciation for music, whether as a performer, audience member, or both. In third grade, we introduce the ’ukulele, which remains an important instrument through the Lower and Middle School years. Each year, in addition to music classes, students present grade-level musicals in the Gates Performing Arts Center on the Upper School campus. Students are involved in every aspect of a performance, from costume and set design, to rehearsing lines, songs, and dances together.
This curriculum anchors students in the island and the host culture of Hawaiʻi, promoting early language acquisition and honoring the traditions of Hawaiʻi, which is central to our mission statement. Classes are held once a week. Students become familiar with simple Hawaiian words, cultural protocols, native plants, mele (song), ’oli (chant) and hula. As kama’aina (people of this place) and malihini (visitors), it is important for all of us to know and understand the culture and language in which we live. The goal of this sharing is to truly exhibit an appreciation for the wondrous diversity of Hawai’i; so that students may foster positive relationships and have a better understanding of their environment, its people, and themselves.
Our campus garden, managed by our full-time garden educator, provides a space in which students can interact with nature in a fun, safe, and meaningful way. The garden also provides classroom teachers with an outdoor learning space to conduct project-based lessons and units. Here, students come to appreciate the interdependence of living things and learn how to conserve and steward natural resources, so that they can participate in creative, sustainable ways of living. In addition, garden program focuses on health and wellbeing while students learn to grow, recognize, prepare, and enjoy healthy food.
Physical and Health Education
We believe physical education is a vital academic class that provides countless opportunities for students to become better movers and learners. This learning environment allows students the space to strengthen their focus, resolve, and perseverance in challenging yet cooperative situations. Classes are held three times a week. We develop multiple skills, including eye/hand coordination, ﬂexibility and endurance, and an appreciation for lifelong health and fitness. Physical education classes use the Village Campus ﬁelds and Hale `Īnana (our multi-purpose facility), as well as the Upper School athletic facilities including the gym, tennis courts, track, and swimming pool. With the help of parent volunteers, we offer three swimming units throughout the year.
The health curriculum includes three speciﬁc units of instruction—nutrition; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; and family health and sexuality, all presented in a developmentally appropriate manner. Parents are kept informed about the topics of instruction through newsletters, letters home, and the parent portal.
Working closely with classroom teachers, our library staff teaches book and catalog classification, information literacy and research strategies, among other topics. Students then apply these skills to their classroom activities and projects. Classes visit the library once a week, where they explore features of a modern library and research tools appropriate to each grade level. By fifth grade, students will begin using in-depth research skills needed to support their capstone projects. Our library program also encompasses a media lab with cameras and a green screen, where students can produce classroom projects and where a librarian or an educational technologist is available to help.
Our K-8 educational technologist works closely with teachers and students to enhance the curriculum, hone students’ skills, and develop transformative technology experiences in the classroom. Our goal is for students to become empowered learners who know their rights and responsibilities as digital citizens. We help them to be innovative designers and computational thinkers who can capitalize on technology opportunities and use these skills and tools to advance their knowledge at higher grade levels.