Kaua‘i School Garden gathering sprouts ideas

LIHU‘E — A garden gathering planted seeds that will grow island-wide as a full house greeted Natalie “Hiwahiwa” Joyce-Maeda, garden coordinator at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School, Punanaleo preschools and Kawaikini school, and Colleen Carroll, the Kaua‘i School Garden Network Director for Malama Kaua‘i.

“When I saw what was taking place at Wilcox School during a visit, I thought it would be nice to get all of the people involved in school gardens together so ideas could be exchanged and discussions on their respective gardens would yield more productive gardens,” Carroll said. “Right now, a lot of the people who work on the school gardens work in relative isolation. This way, they can all come together for some idea exchanges and productive talk story.”

Participants were given a tour of the different grade-level gardens that dot the Wilcox School campus and got an explanation of how the school gardens are tied to classroom learning at the event sponsored by Wilcox School, Malama Kaua‘i, State Farm Insurance and Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i.

The tours and discussions included an explanation of how one of the oldest continuously productive hydroponic greenhouses has persisted through the years, and the morning was spiced up with refreshing beverages including a cucumber and mint cooler, lemon water and a pineapple-coconut-basil offering. Participants also learned to make their own beverages and treats from local garden harvests.

The itinerary was geared to strengthen the Kaua‘i School Garden programs individually and collectively.

“When I was a teacher here at Wilcox, I used to see the ‘white house,’ and now, I have an opportunity to find out more,” said Nancy Budd, the state Board of Education’s Kaua‘i representative. “It’s interesting to see the work being done on school gardens. Now we need to see how it can connect with the larger studies in agriculture.”

Terry Proctor, principal of Wilcox School, said the school features grade level-specific gardens, including an herb garden for kindergarteners and a life-cycle garden created with recycled synthetic barrels.

“One of the containers even has a gutter to help recycle the nutrient water,” Proctor said. “The teacher got help after discussing this with the Malama Kaua‘i people, who suggested the setup.”

 Diane Shoemaker of Kekaha Community Garden said the gathering was timely for her, because Kekaha Community Garden is embarking on its own community seminars and she could gather ideas of what and how to present topics for the Westside community.

Sam Henriques, who coordinates the gardening program for St. Catherine School, said her gardens need revamping and was using the gathering to get ideas on how to do her garden renovation work, which will take place once school lets out for summer.

“This way, hopefully the gardens will be ready when the students return and they can plant seeds right away,” Henriques said.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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