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ʻĀina-Based Learning

MoʻO School is grounded by the cultures of Hawaiʻi and rooted in Ahupuaʻa o Waikīkī. An ʻāina-, or “place-based,” approach to education means offering students hands-on interactions with the natural and cultural resources which surround them. 

Experiential learning is not a new concept in Hawaiʻi. Our kūpuna used their experiences with the land to develop complex sustainable living systems well before western contact in 1778, and established the values reflected in this ʻōlelo noʻeau (Hawaiian proverb or saying), he aliʻi ka ʻāina, he kauwā ke kanaka (the land is chief, man its servant). The impressions formed through ʻāina-based learning create a solid foundation on which to build more knowledge, but they also inspire further exploration of the world and stewardship for the natural environment which supports us.


“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water.”
-Maria Montessori

The cultural and natural resources of Oʻahu are seamlessly integrated into Montessori environments at MoʻO School. A three-year-old may learn that nā pōhaku (rocks) are heavier than nā ʻiliʻili (pebbles) by arranging them during a lesson on weight measurement. Meanwhile, a group of 7- and 8-year-olds may be classifying native leaves from their huakaʻi up-valley. A four-year-old may practice writing the names of the moku (islands) through his work with a puzzle map of the archipelago while two 9-year-olds explore the work of water using a river model depicting Mānoa Stream. All students are continuously exposed to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) through communication with adults in the environment, moʻolelo (stories), as well as language materials on the shelves.

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