Adventuring with a Purpose

Camping Experiences Make a Big Comeback

By Gina Gelber

Overnight camps have been a hallmark of Punahou’s educational journey for over 50 years, beginning in the early 1970s, when fourth grade teacher Tim Lucas organized a memorable class trip to Volcanoes National Park. Recognizing the pivotal role that these nature adventures play in the physical, academic and emotional health of students, Punahou decided to embrace these experiences as part of its curriculum. 

Today this rich tradition is stewarded by Punahou’s Outdoor Education Department, which creates overnight camping experiences for more than 1,000 Junior School students during a typical year. 

It is a team effort, as more than 200 Academy students play an important role in bringing these camping adventures to fruition. “A lot of the magic of camp originates from creating the environment where Academy and Junior School students can have a shared experience,” says Outdoor Education Coordinator Andy Nelson.

Nothing about these experiences is haphazard. Each overnight camp is carefully designed around the age and developmental goals of the participants, according to Outdoor Education Coordinator Shelby Ho ’01. What’s more, each camp has its own set of intended outcomes, based on location and educational objectives.

The Outdoor Education department takes pride in its standard of care. “We want camps to feel inclusive and challenging in the right amounts. We also want students to feel empowered,” Ho says. 

Overnight camps were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Outdoor Ed is happy to report that they made a big come back in 2023. Here are some of the many highlights of this year:

Grade 5

Winter brings the Hawai‘i Island Trip, perhaps one of the most anticipated Outdoor Ed experiences as a Punahou student. The three-day trip was extra special this year; courtesy of Madame Pele’s spectacular volcanic activity in January. Some students were able to take in the magical lava-glow at the Halema‘uma‘u Crater during an evening hike. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Grade 6 

The first year of Case Middle School is marked by a decades-long tradition of venturing to the forests of Pālehua. This camping experience, which takes place in the fall, includes a host of dynamic activities, such as a long hike to Maunakapu, archery, building shelter and participating in Forest Ninja, a popular forest game.

Grade 4

The most personal growth seen during our overnight experiences may be the one that happens closest to home, according to Nelson. That’s when fourth- graders camp at Pu‘uoma ̄noa (Rocky Hill). This part of campus has gone through a significant transformation in the last 20 years thanks to people like Gail Peiterson, Tai Crouch, Dave White and countless students and faculty who have volunteered to revitalize this space. The experience includes a service component, which allows for kids to feel genuinely connected and learn about different ways to help.

Grade 8 

The year before moving to the Academy, students travel to Camp Mokulē‘ia for a three-day adventure. Their mission is straightforward: Take a break from electronic devices to create new bonds with peers and advisories – and gain an appreciation for the beautiful environment of the North Shore.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.