Kona Pacific’s Forest Kindergarten is part of an innovative movement in early childhood education that is now sweeping across the USA. The first of its kind in Hawai’i, the school’s hybrid forest program began during the 2018/19 school year. Worldwide research on outdoor kindergartens strongly suggests that time in nature can improve children’s cognitive functioning, academic performance, and ability to focus, all while emphasizing developing the children's relationship with nature.
Every day, rain or shine, kindergarteners at Kona Pacific make their way up the hill to a clearing in the forest above the school campus. Here, their “forest classroom” serves as a base for nature-based play, exploration, and learning.
Kona Pacific offers a non traditional approach to kindergarten with a focus on the whole child. Much of the time the students will be spit between the wonders and sights of the forest kindergarten, the other will be spent learning invaluable life skills and the basis for a strong elementary education at Kona Pacific.
The center of our forest kindergarten is our language-rich and socially-engaging circle and story times. Through our oral language approach to early literacy, students are exposed to phonemes, through which they develop articulation, rhyme and memory, and the foundations of number sense. We also offer many opportunities to hone fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Each day we bring wonderful handwork projects to work on in the forest such as yarn for finger knitting, a sewing backpack full of the materials needed for small sewing projects, and modeling beeswax. There is time each day to cultivate our Kinder Garden, hike, and explore our campus's lovely extensive grounds. Students who have the opportunity to move over uneven terrain, balancing and jumping, are developing their gross motor skills and self-confidence all while experiencing a deep connection to the rhythms of the forest.
Kona Pacific’s kindergarten program enriches every fiber of the child through outdoor experiences and education as well as a strong base for academic learning. As we cultivate the land with the children, they will be cultivating deep friendships, growing social skills, patience and conflict resolution, and laying the foundation for healthy relationships, healthy bodies, and an excitement and vigor for academic learning.