We had a casualty in class today; a sweet, espresso-brown speckled Hawaiian gecko. She got pinched between two bricks as some enthusiastic 3/4th graders worked together making a new bed. I walked up as the children were checking out the lovely reptile with the tenderness of respectful discoverers.
The gecko was laying so still in their hands because a pinky sized divot was gouged out of her abdomen. The sweet reptile was gasping for air with a wide mouth but laying perfect and still. The children were being gentle and kind in their handling but as I approached I knew Little Gecko was not going to make it. I asked them what the humane thing to do was. Should I put her down in an instant or bury her to suffocate for a while?
In a split second, the children went from frolicking in planting delight to staring death and suffering directly in the face. Before I knew it, these kids were deciding a critter's fate.
"Kill it fast." "It's not fair to make it suffer." "It was an accident." "We should make it quick so it doesn't hurt." "So sad." "Poor little guy."
With a handful of boys and girls in a circle around the gecko, I said a quick blessing. I said we were thankful for the life of the gecko, that we meant no harm to her, that we were sorry to see her go. Out of respect for her life, we would never choose her suffering. With no gecko hospital and no hope of recovery with a gash like that, we had no choice but to send her back to the soil.
It seems a little hardcore now but I used my large shovel to sever her and send it's body back to the garden. We touched the soil to send positive energy to the FBI who would be fed.
The children all picked flowers and special stones and made a mini shrine for the gecko in the middle of the new garden bed we had been making. Nick even grabbled a blue pen and a stick to make a headstone. "Geko. We love you."
With 10 hours before the assembly to spare, I finally totaled our school's data from these many months of recording greywater and paper recycling numbers. Students sat still and quiet as I (with the help of my handsome son assistanting) reviewed total pounds of paper we recycled, how many pencils Mr. G. and I picked up in nooks and crannies all over our campus, and how many gallons of water our garden class' greywater system supplied to thirsty plants.
Students cheered with bold volume as I told them that our school had recycled 1977 pounds of paper. Ocean helped me unfold a perfectly-fine, thrown-away segment of that brown paper that comes on big rolls that I had stowed away for reuse months earlier. With ink just barely dried, the reused paper unfolded at least 6 ft long.
It depicted the mathmatical wizardry of data. With every one of those 1997 pounds accounting for 16 onces, 16 X 1977 is 31,632 ounces. If one piece of paper equals .12 onces, dividing 31632 by .12 equals 263,600 pieces of paper recycled by our school. With our school population totaling 185, dividing 263,600 by 185 is 1425; the number of pieces of paper each student used at our school and recycled last school year. With the words barely out my mouth, I heard two kids in front whisper to each other, "No way, I didn't do that. Nuhuah." I said, "Hey guys and gals, remember when you point blame at other people, you have three fingers pointing back at you." Of course, they all pointed at each other to see if three fingers really do point back. They do.
Wow said the kids. I pulled out three reams of copy paper, 500 each times three, equaling just under the number of papers used by our students. 1425 - the amount of sheets of paper used by each student in 2010/11. Paper makes up the most matter in our landfills, said the graph I showed from a "Begining Reader" pamphlet I picked out of our recycling as I was shleping it around one day. Americans discard over 80 million pounds last year alone. Paper is a biodegradable and recyclable substance that can't biodegrade when it ends up in oxygen-free, toxic as all get out, landfills. We kept 1977 pounds out of our beloved Waikoloa landfill; a sludge basin just a quarter mile mountain of the sea.
Take the math a step further. If one paper-producing pine tree is 850 pounds, our efforts saved two and a quarter trees; a fact I also drew on the unfolded paper.
I asked 7/8 grade students the same question a month earlier when they were pre-fiddling with the data. When I asked them if it was worth it, to haul around all this rubbish (because these kids are the students doing the data recording), they enlightened me with responses. One eighth grade boy I surf with regularly said, "How do you measure microorganisms?" Another seventh grade girl said, "Ms. Krista, you told us that these paper mills are next to rivers so they can put thier pollution there. How do you put a dollar sign on keeping pollution out of a river?"
I didn't stop the assembly to ask how the elementary students felt about saving two trees. When my son and I had been discussing the findings earlier he said, "If we keep that up, we'll save a whole forest."
I went on to talk about our greywater findings. Our garden sink is a shanty-town sink put together out of an old pallet and a dicarded double-bowled stainless steel sink. The drains empty into two five-gallon buckets. We keep track of how many times Ms. Melissa and I dump the filled buckets over thirsty plants through-out the school year. I showed our non-fancy data sheets to the students and unfolded the big sheet that showed our total; 870 gallons of water fed to plants instead of drained down the sewer. The other posters I pulled out showed that 870 gallons equals two hot tubs worth of water and 58 showers (two months worth!). Kids were wowed.
Last item; pencils. We calculated that Mr. G picked up an additional 223 pencils since March, when he had picked up 233 since Sept. Between August and Sept, he had picked up 438 pencils! In all, Mr. G picked up 839 pencils this year!! We love you Mr. G!
Like I told the kids, I feel inspired by this data. It shows that IPCS students are doing some important work, putting rubbish in its new place - the recycler or the compost - more than ever before. No other public schools are doing IPCS style recyling on our Island! Our students are the change we need for a healthy future. I got all choked up and maybe even some of them did too.
My collegue told me she overheard some kids after the assembly, walking to class, saying, "I guess adults do math too." Who knew that math wizardry would be so powerful? That kids can learn recycling and the awesomeness that math can be all in one assembly? That ten-year-olds can save two trees and see the forest? I am still glowing...
The Big Island is blessed by the Soil Whisperer. Gene has dedicated his life to studying soil and sharing the information he has discovered. Yesturday, garden students were lucky enough to hear Gene's knowledge and share in his enthusiastic, hopeful vibe. Gene's message is that soil health = plant health = human health. When he talks soil health, he means literally examining the mineral and vitamin content of soil, discovering that added vitamins and minerals in depleted soil means added vitamins and minerals in human bellies. After decades of agricultural poison, synthetic fertilizers, deforestation, and other means of abuse, the earth's soil has become depleted of the vital nutrients that feed the microorganisms and macroorganisms in soil. These important soil organisms ingest nutrients, breaking vitamins and minerals down into forms usable by plant roots. Plants internalize these nutrients, maximizing the plant's health and making them available for human consumption. Without added nutrients in our soil, plants need more water, are ruthlessly attacked by insects that know where to get an easy meal, and humans are eating food empty of the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. In Hawaii, we import 90% of our food; food that is depleted of nutrients, transported by boat across the Pacific, and then fumigated to kill bugs. Gene came yesturday to begin the process of amending our school's garden soil so the fruits and veggies we grow are full of the vitamins and minerals children need for healthy growth.
Garden students were happy to learn from the Soil Whisperer. They were shocked to hear that these basic connections between soil health and human health are actually radical scientific thought. Mainstream science does not embrace Gene's methods of improving soil health, instead siding with the use of more chemicals and more water to make up for any soil shortcomings.
Gene the Soil Whisperer is a modern day Rachel Carson, and our school, our Island, are blessed to have him.
Twenty one kids went home from the last day before Christmas Break with edible potted plants bedazzled in beach glass soil toppings and glitter dusted plant lables. Kids were intent on making charming "gifts that keep giving." Wide eyed first graders and confident sixth graders and all grades inbetween met at the lunch area; grouped together by crafts where students get to choose two out of about ten holiday merriments. It's pretty significant that edible plants - chives, amaranth, spinach, or pineapple mint - are choosen concidering their competition - candy filled santa jars and sock-stuffed snowdolls. All chose to make the plants as gifts for others. Parent Rick Taylor arrived just in time with much welcomed expertise and a helping hand. Miss Sheyna even stopped by and made some potted gems for her mom. Children had a great time and the potted plants were beautiful.
Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono
Even in the garden, the combination of sparkles and sticky stuff got real messy. A few girls ended up with glitter hair and a couple of the boys were still pealing globules of grass, glue, and glitter off their elbows and forearms after school. Despite the awkwardness of adheasing glitter sitting on lau hala mats with birds and insect distractions every few seconds, all was merry and bright in our garden winter wonderland. Students spent class making garden-inspired ornaments and eating. Kids were devouring lemon slices with a dribble of honey. Definitely got their dose of Vit C. Other students ate IPCS-grown beans scooped with chips. Beans are one of the most popular dishes. There are only about three kids in the whole school who still doubt the beans..
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...