Thanks to the generous support of the Center For Ecoliteracy, Ulupono/Hawai‘i Community Foundation, and Hau‘oli Mau Loa, 65 teachers from across the State of Hawai‘i (five islands) convened at The Mala‘ai Culinary Garden of The Waimea Middle School from July 16-18, 2010, for the Statewide Summer Garden Teacher Conference.
The title of the Conference “Smart By Nature – Growing School Garden Curriculum K–12″ reflected the growing interest in development of school garden curriculum that would integrate its content into the curriculum of the school, and create a “Schooling for Sustainability” curriculum that would become nestled within the school garden program. These programs reflect the growing need for our youth to gain knowledge of building and maintaining sustainable systems of food, energy and waste management, caring for the health of our ecosystem, and improving their overall health and happiness through better nutrition and physical exercise. Using place-based, project-oriented, hands-on learning styles to integrate this whole systems creative thinking into real world projects creates a unique opportunity to bring together seemingly diverse subject matter into an integrated whole.
We created an “outdoor kitchen” on-site and fed up to 75 people six meals over three days. Mahalo to Sandy Barr, Professor of Culinary Arts at Hawai‘i Community College in Hilo, who came early the first morning and never left. Sourcing, preparing, and cooking organic locally grown food for our meals became a highlight of the conference. Slow Food Hawai‘i’s Sunday morning breakfast was memorable and beautiful!
Mahalo to Manuel Jadulang, Agriculture Teacher at Honoka‘a High School for going above and beyond to help us create the infrastructure we needed to create a beautiful classroom and kitchen on a wind-swept field next to the Mala‘ai Garden. Mahalo to the staff of The Kohala Center for their dedication to making everything work smoothly.
Mahalo to our Presenters from the Center for Ecoliteracy, Zenobia Barlow, Carolie Sly, and Karen Brown who elegantly slid into this interesting environment and became our trusted mentors. Mahalo to all of the Hawai‘i Garden Teacher Presenters from three islands: Pua Mendonca, Amanda Rieux, Donna Mitts, Manuel Jadulang, Colleen Carroll, Lydi Morgan, Ilima Rapoza, Gigi Cocquio, Krista Donaldson, and Ming Wei, who clearly exhibited the depth and growth of this new curriculum over the past 2 1/2 years!
I want to share a variety of the comments from the 65 participants, who went home with four new publications thanks to the Center for Ecoliteracy and Hoa ‘Āina O Makaha—lot’s of new friends and knowledge that could practically help to build their programs this year, and the inner knowledge that we are part of a larger revolution happening to return our communities to growing sustainable food, energy and waste systems, and growing happy and healthy keiki and youth at the same time!
“The Conference was so much better than I expected. Good solid information, and relationship building, it does take a community to grow a garden program. Sometimes I feel all alone and struggling, and now I know colleagues that I can reach out to.”
“I would like more emphasis on High School Gardens, UH College System Reps for networking and Community agencies that support school gardens.”
“This was an amazing, invigorating experience that helped me to gain a new momentum in a time of discouraging drought and vog. Without these kinds of gatherings there is no real community sustainability!”
“This was one of the most useful and energizing seminars I have ever attended as a teacher. I would like a weeklong intensive with field trips to school gardens and more hands-on work in the garden!”
“I have made new friends and found new heroes. The food was delicious and comforting, and I love how food/plants/gardens brought such a diverse group of people together. I will put together a resource folder and share it with my K–1 faculty at Punahou.”
“I would like to see more mediated brainstorming and planning sessions organized by location. It was harder for me just getting started with no one else there from my school.”
“Mala‘ai was the perfect gathering place for like-minded and committed teachers to share and network our common grand ideas for the future. The program facilitators brought together our many paths to show how we can steward the ‘āina to grow knowledge in our keiki.”
“Next time, please ask everyone to bring their own plate and bowl and no handouts that aren’t double-sided! Everything else was wonderful and exceeded all my expectations.”
“Excellent Seminar, I recommend that you continue providing such opportunities, more hands-on in the garden.”
“The Conference was very inspiring, but too much focus on conceptual and academics. More presentations in the garden that focus on good gardening techniques next time, please.”
“Mahalo Nui Loa for the preparation and thoughtfulness, the hard work and thoughtfulness, the beauty and thoughtfulness, the seeds and resources, the amazing food, the support, the community and the deep mana‘o shared. I am grateful to begin the year with such inspiration.”
You can also read about this event on the NatureTalks blog: http://naturetalksnews.blogspot.com/