Garden, Students Will Grow Together

It’s beautiful, it’s culture and it offers firsthand learning ― it’s the new garden at Keone‘ula Elementary School in Ewa Beach. Keiki returning to school were greeted with rows of taro, sweet potato and 20 varieties of native flora including Naupaka, Ewa hinahina, Naio, Ilima, and medicinal plants like Ko, Awa, Ki, Ko‘o Ko‘o lau and Olena. The 80-by-50-foot plot has been named Ka Uluwehi o Ka Na‘auao, meaning a place “where beautiful plants thrive,” but also implying a place for the growth of knowledge.

The idea for the garden was born when students became eager for outdoor Hawaiian studies classes with Kupuna Eliza Morrow. The concept of combining a garden with student learning quickly gained popularity, and the school reached out to the community for support. When they approached Hawaiian Electric, the company jumped at the chance to help with resources, expertise and further community outreach.

The project was developed over the course of about a year, with fourth- to sixth-graders and students from the school’s Kids Initiating Change program researching plants and garden design. Community partners includ- ed Haseko, which helped excavate the area, then soil beds were put in place along with an irrigation and sprinkler system spon- sored by HECO. Finally, on July 28, students, teach- ers, administrators, parents and Ewa community mem- bers came together to help insert plants in the ground that HECO had purchased from Hui Ku Maoli Ola plant nursery.

Teachers plan to incorporate the garden into their curriculum and extracur- ricular activities, which includes establishing a gar- den club. “The club, along with our service learning club ― Kids Initiating Change ― will help to maintain the garden,” said vice principal Alexandra Obra. “Eventually we hope to have all of the students contributing to the garden.”

Kupuna Morrow now has a native garden for her fourth grade Hawaiian stud- ies students, and fellow teacher Victoria Coffin notes: “We hope the students can personalize the garden with their own artwork and take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to the garden.”

All grades will be able to take advantage of the garden which, says Obra, is only the first phase of the school’s Student Outdoor Learning Center. Future additions call for an aquaponics system.

“This will blend in perfectly with the outdoor classroom area we will be constructing soon with benches and picnic tables,” said Coffin. “Eventually, we hope to build a green- house and plant nursery.

“With these tough economic times, we realize this garden project would not have been as successful as it is without the support of Hawaiian Electric. We would like to continue building relationships between the school and outside community and organizations with our ongo cccxc  ing projects, in order to make the students’ dream of a hands-on classroom a reality. We know now that the ‘sky is the limit!’”