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 two kindergarten classes in order to maintain small teacher-to-student ratios, led by Emily Kilgore and Chloe Miller and their teaching assistants. Both kindergartens follow a daily, weekly and monthly rhythm, with each class alternating the use of the enclosed Kinder Hale for indoor activities such as circle time, painting with watercolors, baking bread, and making soup. Having daily access to both our beautiful forest setting and our cozy Kinder Hale gives our kindergarten students daily opportunities to experience a healthy living rhythm.
The center of our academic offering in the Waldorf kindergarten are 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 eases our students into school life while learning about the land and developing a deep respect for the beauty and bounty that it offers. As the students explore the forest, they find special fairy nooks and create woodland homes to spark imaginative play with friends. Immersing oneself in nature tends to melt away busy mornings prior to arriving at school or feelings of anxiety and sadness. Kindergarten is a time for planting the seeds of love and excitement for 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 for discovery.