He‘eia Preschool Sets The Green Standard

It has been a big year for Kamehameha Schools’ He‘eia Preschool. Not only was it the school’s first year in operation, but it also was awarded a silver rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. On July 27, the school’s faculty and staff, along with some members of the community, gathered on campus to celebrate these two accomplishments. LEED certification is an international mark of excellence in sustainable building design and operation developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The ceremony was the first time an official announcement was made schoolwide about the LEED certification.

“The (teachers) were very proud of the fact that they can conduct classes in, first of all, what is a very safe surrounding for the kids, but also a place where there are things like natural lighting and natural ventilation,” Kamehameha Schools integrated strategies manager Elizabeth Ahana said.

The school’s design features include ceiling fans and open windows to create natural ventilation, room occupancy sensors to preserve light usage, an outdoor

deck made of recycled plastic water bottles, a play structure recycled from an old playground, low-flow toilets that preserve water and solar lighting.

“The LEED certification reflects our strong commitment toward sustainability,” He‘eia Preschool educational coordinator Malia Newhouse stated in a press release. “Our haumana (students) now have this unique opportunity to learn that it is everyone’s kuleana (responsibility) to do the right thing regarding the relationships that they have with themselves, others and the world.”

He‘eia Preschool is the first Kameameha Schools building to receive a LEED certification ― and the school hopes that its other buildings will adopt similar features. The school is one of Kamehameha’s 31 preschools throughout the state.

“(Kamehameha Schools) is actually looking to use He‘eia Preschool as a model for other schools in the future,” Ahana explained. “They (the other schools) may not be LEED-certified schools, but they can take steps to become more sustainable and more environ- mentally friendly.”

Ahana says that these features also are significant in “showing the kids that it is going to be their responsibility to practice sustainability going forward.” The school has integrated its sustainable designs ― both indoor and outdoor ― into the curriculum to teach kids how these features operate and why they are important. For example, the students learn the basics of solar lighting and air-cooling systems indoors. Outdoors, the students’ play area includes a garden, which provides an opportunity for keiki to learn how to take care of plants ― and focuses specif- ically on native plants such as kalo.

“What we are finding with our students is that they really love to learn by hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling and touching. This is what sticks for them,” Ahana explained. “So when you put them outside, and you give them those opportunities, they retain more. To watch these ‘aha’ moments that don’t always happened within the four walls, I think that is the benefit for having something that is so hands-on.”