Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Have I Taught You Well Enough? Instilling an Environmental Ethic.

Have I taught you well enough? Spoken softly by Kumu Pua Case, these powerful words left a strong impact on the circle of teachers standing in the foothills of the Waimea mountains in the summer of 2010. Have I taught you well enough to make the decisions for the future of our island? Have I taught you well enough to make the decisions on where, what type and how much development? Have I taught you well enough to make the decisions on land use and resource use? Have I taught you well enough to take care of these lands, these sacred sites and our culture for me when I am old? This phrase can serve as a navigational tool for measuring our effectiveness in the role of a teacher--not by report cards and standards--but by our our effective transmission of an environmental sense of responsibility or kuleana, to our students.

Zenobia Barlow and Pua Mendonca discuss
creating a food culture.
July 2010 marked the 3rd Annual Hawaii Island School Garden Teacher Training Workshop. These events are sponsored by the Kohala Center, and lead by Nancy Redfeather, the inspirational conduit for the ever-growing school, farmer and community connection on the island of Hawaii (see for more on Kohala Center’s activities in research, conservation and education). This year the event was co-sponsored by Berkley's Center for Ecoliteracy, whose team of experts delivered "Smart by Nature - Growing School Garden Curriculum” a program designed to bring learning alive for students, right to our doorstep. The Center for Ecoliteracy’s team of experts Zenobia Barlow, Carolie Sly, and Karen Brown introduce the concept of Sustainability as a Community Practice and challenged each of us individually to identify our strengths within the community in one of four categories: are we holders of tradition; visionaries looking to the future; practical and action oriented or relationship and communication specialists? And then collectively to use these skills to to create a network and chart a course of action for school gardens and environmental education across the state of Hawai’i. Learn more about the Center for Ecoliteracy, Smart by Nature and Big Ideas--two exciting curricula focused on Food, Culture, Health and Environment at

Holly Green harvests herbs for afternoon tea.
Mala`ai, the Culinary Gardens of Waimea Middle School, was the perfect setting for the workshop. Mala`ai offers a living example of how a school garden can integrate community and become a focal point for the school. Mala`ai activities also illustrate how to use a garden to teach standards-based lessons in tandem with classroom teachers. Spending time in Mala`ai and experiencing the garden itself, subtly imbues students, teachers and parents with the more intangible lessons−connecting with nature; appreciation of beauty and observation of nature; and, of course; learning how to grow, harvest and cook local nutritious food. Waimea’s school garden was literally hand-carved out of a rocky field and it’s beauty today is a charming contrast to the barren lawns surrounding the school itself and the new development complex creeping up right next door. The garden is a strong tribute to Amanda Rieux, Program Director, Holly Green and the community. To learn more about Mala`ai and how to get involved see

One session featured harvesting
and preparing amaranth.
Presenters shared innovative ways to instill environmental ethics into the every day school scene via: a love of gardening; an appreciation of food and nutrition; a desire to recycle; a dedication to community; a willingness to stand up for change; a passion for worms and composting; and a whole myriad of other core, life and garden principals. The presentations swayed between between inspirational stories of Hawai`i schools to environmental activism at other schools across the nation, returning to the major themes of food, nutrition and classroom specific curriculum ideas from Big Ideas, Smart by Nature and Hawai`i's teachers. If one conference theme were distilled it’s Food! the importance of connecting to food, growing food, harvesting food and how much fun kids have when food is an integral part of the learning environment. But it doesn’t stop with food, that is just the beginning. Teachers shared a myriad of experiences on how to get not just the students, but teachers, administrators and the surrounding community to engage in the garden. To keep an eye on Hawai`i’s Island School Garden Programs visit

In the summer of 2009, I had the pleasure of joining this group when Nancy and her husband Gerry invited over 40 school garden enthusiasts to share in the workshop at their farm. This year there were many familiar faces and a host of new attendees, Gigi Coquito, from Oahu's Hoa `Aina O Makaha, as well as local chef Sandy Barr, Professor of Culinary Arts at Hawai'i Community College in Hilo, and Slow Food. This small, but growing group of teachers, gardeners, food advocates, chefs, parents and students are building a big presence for Hawaii’s schools, farmers, gardens, food, nutrition and environment. At the July 2010 School Garden Teachers workshop, NatureTalks featured the presentation Children’s Perspectives on the Environment -- Gaining Insights. NatureTalks specializes in working with schools and communities in the planning stages of a garden, Before You Dig. Helping you create a school, church or neighborhood garden that meets your specific needs. Contact and visit for more details.

1 comment:

Gibber said...

I also have a passion for worms! Great posting Colleen!