Forest Kindergarten in Kona Takes Classroom into Nature

July 27, 2019, 3:00 PM HST (Updated July 26, 2019, 8:04 PM)
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Courtesy photo.

An innovative new Kindergarten school in Kona is taking the classroom into the forest. Offering play, exploration and learning in nature, Forest Kindergarten at Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua is the first school of its kind in Hawai‘i.

With more and more children spending less time outdoors and becoming more active technology users, the school is part of a movement across the U.S. to reform childhood education.

The movement was inspired by Journalist Richard Louv who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2005 book The Last Child in the Woods.. Louv helped launch an innovative approach to classroom learning based on forest and nature-based programs that follow a European model. Forest Kindergartens have existed since the mid-20th century in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the UK. Thousands of thriving outdoor early childhood programs now exist throughout Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

“The research strongly suggests that time in nature can help many children learn to build confidence in themselves; reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, calm children and help them focus,” said Louv. “There are some indications that natural play spaces can reduce bullying. It can also be a buffer to child obesity . . . and offers other psychological and physical health benefits.”

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Kona Pacific is now offering two Forest Kindergarten classes, keeping a small teacher-to-student ratio. The classes are led by Emily Kilgore and Chloe Miller with support from teaching assistants. As with traditional Waldorf kindergarten, the classes follow a daily, weekly and monthly rhythm. Both classes alternate between indoor and outdoor activities with each spending no more than two hours inside. Indoor activities include painting with watercolors, baking bread and making soup. The outdoor activities include socially engaging circles and story time, as well as hands-on projects like gardening, finger knitting, braiding and sewing. Students also explore the school’s 38-acre property during hikes.

For more information, contact Kona Pacific’s Pedagogical director Greg Learned at (808) 322-4900 or [email protected].

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