School is back in session! The garden is alive with children once again. The garden grew into a bean jungle over the summer months. Ms. Melissa and I tried extra super hard to keep from fighting back the aggressive vine so children could enjoy the remarkable growth.
Student gardeners were absolutely delighted to re-discover their garden. Our bean tunnel grew into a bean cave! Some students discovered a palm-sized garden spider cocooning up a three-inch centipede for lunch. It was like orca vs. great white shark in our garden. Who would have known the spider would win? We watched a gecko snatch a different spider, and then spit it out. The gecko crawled away with the bug the spider had been wrapping up. The spider was left with its' barren web and no lunch. We saw butterflies mating and found a few praying mantis'. Grasshoppers the color of limes were bombing the entire garden - fluttering around disturbed for the first time in months.
I was excited to watch children running for their favorite herb snacks - mint and licorice fennel among their favorites. We dined on juicy starfruit, guava, and bananas. "A monkey was here!" exclaimed a new first grader who discovered empty yellow banana peals on the ground. He looked up and found the rest of the thriry-pound banana pod still on the tree. "Can we eat some too?" he inquired.
The first class I took into the garden found a huge stinging nettle munching some spinach. We were reminded of the bummer and extreme shame that these invasive species bring to our perfect Island habitat. I was thankful that the student was not stung and I got a specimen to show the rest of the garden students. I was reminded that telling the children the truth about the hazards we import into our Island in the name of ornamental palms is the only way to keep them safe; both so our littlest explorers of the wild don't get hurt and so they can make change someday.
I told every class that they are the hope for the future. There was a day in Hawaii where every person was a gardener who knew how to grow the food needed to fill their own bellies and that of their family's. Now, 1-2% of our population are farmers (that statistic is reflected nationally and locally) and the average age of those farmers is 65 years and older.
I hope the satisfaction our students receive from growing their own food while they are in elementary school will produce the radical change we need for a healthy future. Wonder Garden students are planting the seeds for a healthy future and they know it!!
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.
We dug out our biggest load of compost yet; dank-smelling, black, fluffy soil teaming with life and wiggly with worms. Students couldn't believe what could happen when we trap biodegradable school waste and let FBI go to work.
Last year's lessons on amending nutrients to soil turns out to be spot on. We reviewed how various classes had gathered and added human hair, cow manure, ash, cooked and crushed chicken bone, shredded paper, molassas, egg shells, and banana stalks in purposeful attempts to put all those needed nutrients back into the soil. Maybe weird to humans, but for microorganisms that stuff is a treat! We ammended compost so microorganisms could go to town eating plenty and recycling waste.
We are talking about about microorganisms this year in terms of FBI - fungus, bacteria, invertibrates. Fungus = mushrooms; Bacteria = microscopic worm food. Seeing worms means biodegrading bacteria is present. I = Invertibrates; visible bugs like cockroaches, roly polies, springtails, and the critters that eat them like spiders and centipedes. The wheelbarrow compost had diverse FBI for miles. It was an FBI party in there.
Gardeners carefully scooped compost and surrounded their favorite plant's soil area with compost. To tuck-in nicely the FBI, they covered the compost with a scoop of mulch. Worms and vital microorganisms were spread everywhere! The garden was sparkling with good vibes sprinkled in every corner. "Oh little worm!" "You are so cute." "Look! This worm's dancing!"
How can a garden keep from glowing with all this compost and love?
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...