By supporting more than 60 school learning gardens on Hawai‘i Island through technical assistance and professional development programs, the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network connects Hawai‘i’s keiki to real food, healthier eating habits, and the ‘āina itself. The Network also administers FoodCorps Hawai‘i and Kū ‘Āina Pā, a school garden teacher training program. Together these initiatives work to develop garden and nutrition programs for learning gardens and help schools procure fresh, healthy, locally grown food.
Hawai‘i Island students are producing their own food in school gardens and developing a taste for healthy, fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and more. In turn, they and their families are learning about health and nutrition, how to nurture and keep island soils healthy, and how our ma uka or “uphill” work protects our oceans. And about how we—as individuals, families, and a society—can care for the island and its communities.
Numerous studies show that school learning gardens improve academic performance in a wide spectrum of subjects, foster positive attitudes toward learning, bolster healthy behaviors and nutrition, promote cooperation and teamwork, and instill children with pride in their work and the food they grow.
At public, private, and charter schools across the island—from cool, breezy South Kohala to tropical Hilo, from sunny South Kona to verdant Hāmākua—more than 16 acres (700,000 square feet) of school learning gardens have been planted, annually yielding 15 tons (30,000 pounds) of food for these students and their school communities to enjoy. And in the process, deeper learning of mathematics, social studies, language arts, fine arts, and the natural sciences is taking place in these vibrant, engaging outdoor classrooms.