The Hawaiian garden started about three years ago, the vision of Lars Hanson, one of our fourth grade teachers. For those who are unaware, a study of our State history is a fourth grade standard, and Mr. Hanson wanted to share the important interrelationship between the land and its people. As an island state, it is particularly important that we share information about our endemic plants because they are vital to an understanding of our cultural history.
Last year during Make a Difference Day, volunteers from DPW, US Army Garrison-Hawaii and Weston Solutions worked with our teachers to fix up the garden. They divided the garden into three parts: one part has endemic/native plants which came to Hawaii by natural means (wind, water, and wings); a second part is planted with what the Polynesians brought with them when they made Hawaii their home; and the third section contains introduced plants brought by immigrants.
Students learn about the myths and legends surrounding the plants. They learn about how the ancient Hawaiians, the Polynesians, and the immigrants used the different parts of the plant and how they cultivated plants for specific purposes. Students research to find out information about native plants and animals and share their knowledge with others.
The culmination of their fourth grade study of Hawaii is a visit to the lo`i or taro patch where students assist in the harvesting of the taro which is then used to make poi, a staple of a Hawaiian meal. Students love turning the squishy mud with their feet (sort of like hoeing to prepare for planting) and washing themselves off afterwards in the cool underground spring (punawai) on the premises!