The Nature Explore Classroom at Kamehameha Schools Preschool at He'eia
The first Nature Explore Classroom in Hawaii, located at Kamehameha Schools Preschool at He`eia, was the result of a collaboration between the professional Nature Explore design consultation team, school staff, a cultural specialist, families and the community.
Staff consulted with a cultural specialist to ensure cultural relevancy and significance in the outdoor classroom. The name Waipao was given to the site which means to “scoop water” and was chosen for significance to the environment and its use. It is the name of an `ili within the larger ahupua`a of He`eia.
The learning spaces maintained English names and are marked by signs posted by a service learning project gifted by the 8th Grade Middle School students from Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Island Campus.
A Hawaiian proverb pertaining to the environment and children is placed at the exit of Waipao. It states: He keiki aloha na mea kanu which translated means: Plants are like beloved children; with nourishment, care and love, they flourish.
Native materials from the environment are included in each of the areas of the classroom. Local instruments such as the ukulele and kala`au have been placed in the Music and Movement Area for young children to experience on a daily basis.
Plantings include Kukui trees, sweet potato, taro, kupukupu fern and laua`e, all of which can be found in the community and the surrounding environment to preserve and sustain Waipao. Care of the plants is part of the curriculum which children look forward to each day.
Only open since February 8, 2011, this new classroom has plans for on-going designs. A dry river bed and a Hawaiian plant garden have been designed.Each addition will enhance the mission of connecting children to nature and their environment.