West Hawaii Explorations Academy is a public charter school located in the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) of Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i Island.

Our Approach

WHEA has a unique approach to education, valuing authenticity and student direction. We believe that students learn best when the learning environment offers integrated, self-selected, hands-on projects with real world applications. The school offers a project-based curriculum that emphasizes independent learning, technical writing, and building understanding through practical research.

Vision & Mission


Students become productive and responsible practitioners of collaboration and stewardship, evolving into lifelong critical thinkers who are confident in their ability to solve complex, real world problems.


To facilitate authentic learning through integrative, hands-on, self-selective projects related to real world challenges.


Back in the early 1990’s, a Konawaena high school teacher named Bill Woerner ran a famous solar car team that raced across Australia, the continental United States, and in Europe. His experience with this team far outweighed his traditional classroom experience in purpose and progress—the hands-on and project based component approach was a better way to accomplish authentic education.

Konawaena's solar car team

With the positive experience of the solar car team, WHEA started out as a Hawai‘i DOE  school-within-a-school from 1994 to 2000. It received its charter from the Hawai‘i State Board of Education (BOE) on May 5, 2000 as Hawai‘i’s first public charter high school, and on August 14, 2000, WHEA became Hawai‘i’s first, start-up charter school to open.

Today, WHEA serves middle school and high school students from grades 6th through 12th. The current student population is approximately 120 middle school, and 145 high school students.