Monday, January 13, 2014

Our Hawaiian Garden

I've shared about our Hope Garden as an example of project-based learning which engages students, integrates different content areas, and embeds technology through researching, sharing, and blogging.  I haven't shared as much about our fourth grade Hawaiian garden which is a venue for teaching our students about our unique history.

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.  
Two weeks ago, the sugar cane plants were
taller than the building with tassels gracefully
crowning the top of the plant.  Mr. Hanson
and fourth grade students get together to work
on the garden every week after school, and 

when I went past one day last week,
the sugar cane had been cut down.  All the
students will get to have a piece of sugar
cane; they will be surprised to taste it and to
realize that the sugar they put in their food comes
from this plant!

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!

The plants are bought in pots and when they are ready, they are planted in the ground or Mr. Hanson goes to the mountains to gather plants. They have planted several different kinds of taro; I didn't realize there were so many different varieties of taro!


  1. Thank you Mr. Hanson for all your hard work in the garden! Thank you for teaching me the plants, legends and "mana" of the garden so I can teach my students!

  2. I love the Hawaiian Garden (didn't know it had an 'official'name). I have several native plants around my home, but no where near as many kinds of kalo.

    Great work 4th grade. This little touch of Hawaiiana engages the students more than reading about a bunch of plants to which they have no connection.