So I'm in Central Cali for the holiday. The bite in the air reminds me what supreme garden opportunities we have in the tropics - year-round warm soil, access to the great outdoors, a host culture with core gardening values, and did I mention warm weather? Hawaii Island is in the unique position to empower our population with earth connection and nutritious, local food ALL YEAR AROUND. Gardens make a difference! And we can dig everyday!!
School is out so it's a good time to get to know Hawaii State as a leader in the green schools movement. Unexpected but true - Hawaii is one of just seven states mandating green innovations in school construction. Making headlines as a powerful tool in Hawaii's green school arsenal are student gardens. Hawaii Island is recognized as Hawaii's trailblazer for school gardens. Holding the maschete that is clearing the school garden trail and funded generously by a foundation founded by one creator of Ebay, The Kohala Center is a Big Island non-profit that hires and pays two Hawaii Island School Garden Network Coordinators; one each for the west and east sides. I've noticed the west-side coordinator, Nancy Redfeather, provides essential components needed to create the real social change an Island-wide school garden movement offers - networking opportunities, teacher training, funding connections, volunteer information, and good, ol' teacher bonding situations. At last summer's Network provided conference, I discussed as far-ranging issues as worms to widgets, created warm fuzzies with other island teachers, and discovered that the other Islands are trying to re-create the school garden system that blesses the Big Island. Most importantly, Nancy's work makes me feel like a vital part of an Island-wide, country-wide, world-wide "return to the gardens" green movement instead of a lone soldier in a lone school in a lone garden. As for Kona, Nancy is on to her next revolutionary tasks -creating Hawaii-based garden curiculum and training for lead classroom teachers, bolstering ecoliteracy within the educational structure, and creating a lone, GMOfree, Big Island seed bank that will preserve seed integrity for generations. For these reasons and more, I heart the Hawaii Island School Garden Network.
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..
Two weeks observing the compost pile with 1-6 graders. We witnessed a gecko stalk and kill a fly, eyelash-sized baby scorpions, a day care center of infant centipedes, hawks flying overhead, ants swarm and carry off a damselfly, irredecent green and turquoise jewel wasps that visted at the same time every day, endless cockroaches, gnats, earwigs, rolly polly bugs, soldier flies, not to mention the work of billions of microscopic bacteria and fungus turning waste to soil. When asked what the children learned from observing, poking around in, and drawing bugs they saw in the compost, answers ranged from "I learned that every bug has a special job" to "It looks like recycling in nature." Children made the connection that if the rubbish wasn't in the compost, it would be in the landfill and less likely to be eaten by a jungle of healthy insects. My favorite comment came from a first grader: "In the compost, it's either eat or be eaten."
Give pensive seventh and eighth grade girls a machete and watch them go!! The ripe bananas are my personal favorite large plant to hack down so I felt determined to get these young ladies swinging with personal power and a garden machete. A huge ripe rack in our Jr. High grade banana patch was the perfect temptation. At first, I asked them to hack down the stalk and they resisted, squemishly citing gross black ants. To insite slashing senses, I demonstrated propper machete use and promised to catch the sappy rack when it fell. They couldn't resist just one whack. The leader of the squeemish girls took the first turn. One hack. Two hacks. Three hacks; a smile. "I like this! Take that!!" The machete was passed around the trio of sassy Jr. High girls growing more brazen with every power swing. Glowing and hungry, the girls agreed that hacking bananas was a great way to release bottled up tensions and frustrations. You go girls!!
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...