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!!
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!
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
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...