Grades 2 – 5 Community

Take a peek inside the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5, the first half of which opened in August 2016.

The comprehensive redesign of Punahou’s Junior School that began with Case Middle School and continued with the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood will be completed by creating new facilities for our students in grades 2 – 5. Funding from the campaign will enable us to build a multifaceted landscape of learning that taps into children’s natural sense of curiosity, discovery and play while grounding them in an intimate and nurturing community.

  • Like Case Middle School and the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, this project is inspired by the latest research in the neurology of learning and childhood development, which underscores how space and physical environments affect a child’s ability to learn and grow.
  • Flexibility and fluidity in our indoor and outdoor spaces will allow teachers to engage with a greater variety of learning profiles while broadening opportunities to mix instructional techniques and age groups. Two-story classroom studios will reduce the overall building footprint, increasing the green and open spaces in this part of campus.
  • From a native forest to edible gardens that recycle the waters of Ka Punahou, an outdoor landscape inspired by the Hawaiian ahupua‘a will support a curriculum grounded in our unique island culture and history. The diversity of outdoor spaces – from quiet nooks to active play areas – embraces learning that is experiential and fueled by children’s innate curiosity.
  • Adhering to the highest levels of green design introduces the opportunity to include sustainability education in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Building on the successes of Case Middle School (LEED Gold) and the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood (LEED Platinum), we will take Punahou’s commitment to sustainability beyond building design and make it a learning experience for students.

Take a 360° virtual tour.
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New structures

Classroom Studios

Seven two-story classroom studios with 28 new classrooms overall. Classrooms measure 1,220 square feet with 447-square-feet lanais. Each floor contains two classrooms that can be unified via moveable partitions and a shared 271-square-foot breakout room.

Junior School Learning Commons

The centerpiece of the new neighborhood will be a 19,541-square-foot Learning Commons for students in kindergarten to grade 8. This will include technology/media facilities, makery spaces, administrative, instructional and conference rooms, flexible creative, social gathering and outdoor areas, and traditional reading and research spaces.

Arts Building

Adjacent to the Learning Commons will be a 10,609-square-foot visual and performing arts building.

Curiosity and Creativity Drive Design

Children’s natural inquisitiveness is a powerful incentive for learning. For several years, Punahou’s Junior School faculty have explored inquiry-based, interdisciplinary instruction that creates a highly personalized learning experience for children.

In this new instructional environment, the teacher’s role is no longer primarily to convey information, but rather to facilitate authentic learning experiences that unleash each child’s interests and passions. Teachers guide students toward meaningful questions that help them apply foundational knowledge in ways that are relevant to their own lives and communities.

Faculty are also encouraged to collaborate and team up, complementing skills and perspectives so that students are exposed to more than one instructional guide, while simultaneously reinforcing models of cooperative learning. Grouping children according to developmental levels and interests, rather than by age, is also being explored as faculty look for ways to engage a diversity of students and learning profiles.

In the global century, skills like creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship are critical to success.The new learning emphasizes process and questions over content and answers, and it flourishes in spaces characterized by flexibility, adaptability and scalability.

Design can help or hinder these approaches. There is a tremendous difference between fixed, proprietary classrooms and open, shared spaces in a teacher’s instructional options. In the conventional classroom, there is a standard ratio of one teacher to 25 students with a primary design feature being the fixed “teaching wall,” whereas flexibility, adaptability and scalability characterize the spaces that foster 21st-century learning. The new 2 – 5 studio structures will be equipped with moveable walls and furniture for maximum adaptability to different teaching ideas.

2 – 5 Design Principles

Faculty, staff, administrators, trustees and experts engaged in a thoughtful design process that began in 2011. Informed by the latest brain research on how children learn, a steering committee gathered ideas and inspiration from leaders in educational design. The following principles are the result of a design thinking process in which grades 2 – 5 faculty articulated their aspirations for the new neighborhood and the learning it will nurture.

The Learner
  • Recognize the diversity and needs of individual students
  • Reflect the neurological dynamics of learning
  • Recognize the role of play and the value of “failing forward”
  • Interact and embrace the child in the context of a system: family, school and community
The Learning Experience
  • Inquiry-based and interdisciplinary by design
  • Embeds Hawaiian culture and values
  • Promotes a global perspective
  • Advances 21st-century skills
  • Utilizes instructional technology
  • Deliberately sequenced progression
  • Reflects the value of service
  • Guided by experienced, insightful teachers
The Learning Environment
  • Cultivates collaborative interactions between teachers, students and classes
  • Accommodates and encourages collaborative, interactive, project-based learning
  • Provides quiet spaces for small and large group work
  • Brings the outdoors in, and invites those indoors out
  • Embraces sustainable design and embodies local culture

Outdoor Learning Environments and Sustainability

The outdoors form an integral part of a student’s educational experience, and the new community envisions outdoor environments that range from open lawns to exploratory spaces to areas that deliberately incorporate opportunities for Hawaiian studies and sustainability education. Features include terracing on the slope above Ka Punahou for lo‘i kalo and native plants; a natural forest environment on the mauka slope of Barwick Playground; and an outdoor amphitheater.

A flowing water system will unify the entire community and connect it with the springs of Ka Punahou, reinforcing the School’s geographical, historic and spiritual center, along with Hawaiian values of stewardship, community and a deep connection to place. The value of a global perspective, so central to a 21st-century education, is deepened when children have a meaningful connection to their home and host culture.

After achieving Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, the School’s aspiration for the new community’s buildings and its outdoor environment is that they become teaching tools where the value of ecological stewardship is visible to students. Green space in this part of campus will be doubled when the project is complete.

Creative Hub of the Future: Junior School Learning Commons

Together with a partner facility in the Academy, the Junior School Learning Commons will facilitate deeper, more relevant and enduring learning for students by:

  • Building congruency between students’ experiences in school and the real world;
  • Providing the space and resources (technological, creative and human) to transform students’ questions into meaningful work that addresses authentic challenges and audiences;
  • Increasing collaboration and connections among students and teachers from different grades and disciplines;
  • Supporting faculty as thoughtful researchers and innovators, positioning Punahou as an educational resource and partner to other schools.

A Community for All of Us

See how this beautiful and interactive overview flipbook tells the story of the new Kosasa Community.


  • Construction start date: March 2015
  • Completion of the first portion of the new neighborhood (Phase 1A): August 2016
  • Anticipated completion of the entire project (Phase 1B): 2019


Design Partners Incorporated is an architectural firm based in Honolulu that has provided planning and design services in Hawai‘i, the Pacific Basin and Asia – including education, residential, industrial, retail, hospitality, planning and military projects. Construction: Nordic PCL Construction, Inc.

Cost and Funding

The estimated construction cost for the project is $88 million. Naming opportunities are available. Also, see Mauka to Makai Match for two gift match opportunities at the $100K and $250K level.

Holly Paulson ’87 Sereni
Acting Director of Development