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Hanahau`oli was a dream realized for Sophie and George Cooke in 1918, a school of joyous work, which its name signifies, for their six children and those of many of their friends. It was a small school, permitting the sharing of experiences from kindergarten through sixth grade where all the children cooperated as in a large family...

Hanahauoli School early yearsThus begins Memories of Hanahau`oli, the First Fifty Years, a book, as its author Louisa Palmer says, of "bits of this and that" documenting many aspects of the school's journey from its founding in 1918 to its 50th anniversary in 1968. The book tells the story of the school's unique progressive mission, its many traditions and its firm adherence to the belief that children learn best through play and hands on "happy work." Miss Palmer, who was principal for 33 years, paints a picture of children learning in two small buildings surrounded by a lawn dotted with kiawe trees, a jungle gym, and working gardens. Shop, art, French and music were a part of each day's activities in addition to the more "traditional" subjects. An old bronze hand bell, purchased in Florence, Italy, was rung to start and end the day.

From these simple beginnings, Hanahau`oli has grown, evolved and yet, in many ways, remained the same. Still a small school for 208 children from Junior Kindergarten through 6th grade, children are now in multiage classes that acknowledge individual growth and developmental readiness. Small wood frame buildings that opened out to play areas are now state of the art classrooms with 21st century technology built in, yet they still open to outdoor work and play areas that honor our Hawai`i climate and compliment our project based programs.

Similar to those early days, the faculty student ratio remains low and teachers serve as facilitators who nurture curiosity and challenge children to problem solve as they face a time of new technologies and rapid change. The curriculum remains true to the belief that disciplines are not separate and that learning integrates school life with the home and world.

And throughout, Hanahau`oli embraces its long-held traditions. These events and "rituals," most from the earliest days of the school, help to build a strong social foundation for children who learn what it means to plan and look forward to experiences that have held meaning for generations. Makahiki, a celebration of thanksgiving; the Holiday Program and tree cutting; the 6th grade odyssey that includes stepping stone making, oratories, and Olympics; morning flag; the Head of School handshaking at the end of the day and the slipper toss at the end of the school year are all traditions that are looked forward to and woven into the life of the school each year. And, children research, plan, learn and are the focus of each one.

Founded in 1918, Hanahau`oli is regarded as a preeminent independent elementary school in Hawai`i because of its adherence to its mission that validates childhood as the time of learning, the years when the foundation is laid for life-long commitment to the values that sustain our families, our neighborhoods and the global community.

The Hanahau`oli Timeline

Hanahau`oli Traditions, as told by the students

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