Life Lessons Abound in Kapunahala Elementary’s Garden

Life Lessons Abound in Kapunahala Elementary’s Garden

By Stephanie Mew

What started off as a tiny inspiration has blossomed into an integral part of the third-graders’ weekly experiences at Kapunahala Elementary.

Once a week, they garden outdoors with Tanya Hood, who has 20-plus years of gardening experience. She teaches the eager students how to plant, nurture and harvest vegetables and flowers growing in their Ohana Garden. They love getting “dirty” and being outdoors, and feel curious and fascinated by the different vegetables that are introduced, like kale.

The students’ hands-on experience provides valuable lessons. This quarter, we survived two storms – one by Mother Nature and the other by vandals. Both battered our garden. We quickly rebuilt it and brought the plants back to life. These events provided wonderful life lessons in forgiveness and resiliency.

Last fall, the students began with one tiny sunflower seed and watched in amazement as it grew higher than 7 feet. School gardens are a wonderful way to use the schoolyard as a classroom, reconnect students with the natural world and help them discover the true source of their food. The planned and spontaneous lessons integrate with and provide relevancy for many subjects such as math, science, and health and wellness. Gardening encourages them to become more responsible, caring and cooperative.

We also harvested three kinds of kale and made green smoothies. It tasted delicious and now we’re eager to eat and drink “green” food! Soon we’ll celebrate Chinese New Year 2014 with lettuce wraps. The students can’t seem to get enough of the garden. It has become their new playground and peaceful place.

Our garden is possible because of the generosity and kokua of Kapunahala’s families, staff and community. We’re grateful to the parents and family members, who cleared weeds on a Saturday morning. No weed killers were used, just muscle. The Kokua Hawaii Foundation mini-grant allowed us to purchase the gardening tools and flower bed kits. It also provided a gardening curriculum. Hawaiian Earth Products donated a flatbed of premium soil and Coastal Construction built a garden bed that will last a long time. Master Gardener Stuart Ball patiently guides us and expertly answers all of our gardening questions.

About the author: Stephanie Mew is a third-grade teacher at Kapunahala Elementary.