Hawai‘i’s Department of Public Instruction launched its most ambitious venture in progressive education in the fall of 1927, when its Division of Research decided to create a ‘laboratory school’ to serve as an experimental model for the Territory. The former Fort Street School was selected for the site for the laboratory school within the Territorial Department of Public Instruction, and renamed the Kawānanakoa Experimental School. The Kawānanakoa Experimental School was explicitly conceived as a proving-ground of Deweyite principles.
According to the official DPI publication on the school, Kawānanakoa was dedicated to the only form of “education worthy of the name… character education.” Moving away from methods based on routine instruction and memorization drills, teachers were expected to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of their work in promoting Health, Initiative, Responsibility, Whole Heartedness, Cooperation, and Open Mindedness. Currently, the school serves students from grades 6 through 8 with an enrollment of approximately 800 students. (It was named for Prince David Laʻamea Kahalepouli Kinoiki Kawānanakoa, brother of Prince Kūhiō.)