2016 Private School Guide


(page 5 of 34)

Hanahau‘oli School

PhotoS: Hanahau‘oli School


Cynthia Gibbs-Wilborn, Head of School

Every afternoon during dismissal, the small student body at this well regarded early education school gathers and Head of School Cynthia Gibbs-Wilborn greets each child by name with a handshake and a smile, starting with the littlest, the Junior Kindergarteners. Some grin back and give her a firm shake; some so shy they can barely manage a smile. But by the sixth grade, under the attentive guidance of caring and experienced teachers, they all blossom in their own way and at their own pace at Hanahau‘oli, she says.


“It’s about offering a personal connection, making eye contact, acknowledging each child as important,” says Gibbs-Wilborn of the afternoon ritual. Students feel a safe and caring assurance, which, over the years, helps builds their confidence. Some of the shyest turn out to be the most surprising, stepping up on stage to speak or perform at school events.


Guided by John Dewey’s progressive, child-centered and enduring educational philosophy, Hanahau‘oli (“happy work” in Hawaiian) is dedicated exclusively on the unique formative years of early elementary learning. Its thoughtfully designed curriculum offers hands-on learning experiences in social studies, sciences and arts so children can “learn by doing” in age-appropriate, one class per grade level classes.


Connecting students with experiences that expand their world come in many forms at Hanahau‘oli. A new “outdoor classroom,” currently in planning for example, involves the children in designing their own backyard space to create exciting and meaningful ways to use play to build nature-inspired physical, academic and artistic learning experiences they will enjoy. Hanahau‘oli students also connect globally with the Hokule‘a as one of their partner schools for its Malama Honua World Wide Voyage.


Communicating with and connecting with parents and the larger community are important to Hanahau‘oli’s efforts to continue its long tradition of educational excellence while staying relevant to current concerns. Ongoing parent conferences and now online report cards provide accessible and sustainable ways to stay in touch with families. Evening group seminars for parents address issues they struggle with for their children, such as building resiliency, handling technology and healthy risk-taking. “Parents increasingly are looking for ways to create physically, intellectually and emotionally safe environments for their children to thrive,” says Gibbs-Wilborn.


Connecting with school partners enables Hanahau‘oli’s trusted expertise in research-based best instructional practices to be shared with private, charter, and public school teachers. Perspectives, a new program in its first year from Hanahau‘oli’s Professional Development Center and hosted at the school, engages teachers on timely topics in early childhood education.


“Ensuring that childhood is preserved as the foundation for lifelong learning is what Hanahau‘oli is all about,” says Gibbs-Wilborn. “We care about making a positive difference in children’s ability to take on and embrace every new chapter in their lives and to see themselves as part of the world.”



1922 Makiki Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, (808) 949-6461, Hanahauoli.org


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