This weekend I attended the Kokua Hawaii Foundation's Farm to School Garden Conference. I learned so much and felt so overwhelmed when I was done. I went as a representative for Laie Elementary.
On Friday I attended a full day of classes on school gardening, sustainability and green projects. I learned how to conduct a waste audit, how to compost cafeteria scraps, how to keep a school garden healthy, what plants grow best in Hawaii, why I should plant by the Hawaiian Moon Calendar, food safety in the garden and so much more.
Though the classes were all wonderful it was the first two speakers that really got my mind moving. The first speaker, Pono Shim from Enterprise Honolulu, asked us "What does this seed hope to be?". He talked about working within the frameworks that we have--the students, the community, the volunteers--and letting them blossom into what they want. In other words, as leaders we cultivate the talents and the resources around our schools in a way that best serves our schools.
The second speaker was Robert Witt from the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools. He quoted from a few books that I am thinking I might need to read: Blessed Unrest and Epitaph of a Peach. And then he asked, "What is the destination?" Any time we start a project with our students we should be asking what is the destination, or what will they take home and use and apply. And we should ask if what we are teaching will indeed get them to that destination. Is it enough information? Is it too much? Is it the right information? Are they learning essential skills?
On Saturday I toured two school gardens and got hands on experience with large garden composting, vermicomposting (worm bins) and learned about aquaponics and cooking from the garden in the classroom. The first school we visited was Kainalu Elementary. They started their garden last year using the sheet composting (aka lasagna gardening) method and were having great success, especially with their herbs, tomatoes and zucchini. While at Kainalu we had a demonstration by two local chefs using fresh and local foods.
The second school, Windward Nazarene Academy, had a well established and extensive garden. The majority of their open playground space was gardens! It was a small place but still impressive that they had dedicated so much area to gardens. They even had banana and papaya. They use everything they grow in their meals at the school. They had a brand new aquaponics system in which they are growing tilapia (fish) in the bottom of the system, and tomatoes and herbs in the top of the system. Very cool! While there we made lavender scones and papaya banana jam using ingredients from the gardens.
The end of the conference was wrapped up with a presentation by Ma'o farms a non-profit farm that is helping disadvantaged youth graduate college, gain a college education, and start careers in the sustainability industry. It was inspiring. Check out the Ma'o website.