Somehow becoming garden teacher also became becoming waste coordinator. I call myself "sustainability coordinator," but that is really just a fancy term for being responsible for making planet-friendly choices for 164 children's and 37 staff member's daytime trash. When I first started teaching, I was flabergasted by the amount of trash filling the cans after every day; some of the rubbish biodegradable, some recyclable, some reusable. There was the youth of America learning how to clean-up their messes in oblivious tosses at large containers that are taken away by nameless, faceless people and emptied into larger vats until they reach the last, hugest vat - the dump. Just like it was circa 1985 when I was in school. Public school has to be the change we want to see in the world. Obviously the situation was ripe for recycling efforts. I didn't think twice about setting up the basics, and it only took a few months to set up the rest.
IPCS now recycles cardboard, paper, aluminum, plastic 1,2,5, HI 5 aluminum, HI 5 plastics, batteries, capri-suns, and compost. Mr. G built our school's "Recycling Headquarters." Our public school is a recycling model for other institutions. Our first graders could tell you all kinds of information about recycling and some children even bring in their family's cardboard because they don't want to throw it away. Mr. G and I were trying to figure out the story behind some surprise Heineken bottles that showed up and found out that a fourth grader had brought them from home.
I am thrilled by all the recycling hooplah at our school. But the fact is, a public school can only have a concerted recycling effort with a go-to staff person. I made myself that person so I often find myself with fermented juice splattered all down my leg, or hauling 30 pound bags of paper like a recycling Santa.
But today I wasn't alone. Several A+ students shared the responsibility of removing the straws, squirting out left-over juice, and flattening capri-sun pouches. It is my least favorite self-imposed responsibility. You have to dodge cockroaches and lava beetles sqirming out of the capri-sun depths. You gotta watch out for the spray that goes off target and showers rotting sugar water all over your legs and slippers to form sticky juice mud. I was thrilled to safely engage students in the grossest job we got and they were helpful, smart, and inquisitive. We talked all about up-cylcing and lava beetles and cockroaches and native gechos and non-native gechos and centipedes and plastics that never go away and landfills. They successfully strategized an effective team method of doing the work and chatted the whole time.
I learned that being the change means engaging the youth in the change at every step. Even the capri-suns.
Wow, the new school year is off to a rolicking start. First week back, garden students harvested over 30 lbs of produce in one class! Tangerines, papaya, and startfruit were falling into the baskets of eager children. Dozens of public school students got to pick a tangerine or starfruit and eat it, juice dripping everywhere, straight off the branch. The trees were planted by student gardeners three short years ago to help offset our school's carbon footprint. Sixth graders remember digging holes in the lava for the tangerine trees as third graders, amending soil with compost and bone meal, and rolling the pottless trees into their final growing place. How lucky to pick and eat the fruits of their labor.
Last week Ms. Melissa busted out her milking goats. One full grown milker, Nui Goat, and her recently weened baby, Ili Goat, joined us in garden class. I should say "starred" in class because the goats couldn't help but be the rightful center of attention. We talked random goat facts - prey animals so they are jumpy, domesticated for 8000 years, offering humans fuel, food, manure, milk, lawn-mowing, and hides - to demonstrate the animal's awesomeness. Students watched Ms. Melissa prep Nui Goat for milking and then milk her with the gentle hands of an old friend. Ms. Melissa even shared some of her all homemade goat cheese mixed with guava jelly and served on ricotta bread. Delicious!
Talk about udders and teets lasted all day. I didn't know goats have two teets where cows have four or that goat milk is naturally homogenized (creme and milk mixed rather than separated like cow milk). At least one child per class did not know that male goats don't make milk. Goats have striking horizontal pupils that allow greater depth perception than round pupils like ours. Goats are more fascinating that I game them credit for.
At first squeemish about watching someone milk an animal let alone trying goat cheese, children reconsidered when we started picturing hot cheese pizza or luscious ice cream. Many a favorite food comes from the udder of an animal. Why not consider this one that lives in our ahupua'a, is fed prime Kona vegitation, and Ms. Melissa's good friend?
Animals and the services they provide humans is notable. Is it better for our Island, for survival, to employ animals that are close to where we live? Is raw goat milk different than pasturized cow milks? If you want to survive off your own farm, is a goat a good animal to have around? How does knowing or personally farming the animals that provide food affect survival?
Important questions with great conversations for sure but far less convincing than the delicious creme of homemade goat cheese. Everyone except a few 1/2 graders thought Ms. Melissa's pupu creation was exceptional. Nui Goat was shy with most, but decided to lick on and gently nudge one fifth grader who has trouble in classroom settings but is a superstar in the garden. After class he came to me and said, "Ms. Krista, that was my favorite lesson ever."
Thanks Ms Melissa for providing such a unique and impactful opportunity for our gardeners!
Ms Krista says:
Everyday encounters with real garden sprites; tortuous panorama of the surf; old-growth collards; machete lessons; mantis rehab; pesto pasta. Days as a public school garden teacher on the Big Island are filled with unexpected gems of wisdom and infinite inspirations. Introducing my life as a school garden teacher...