On Earth Day this year, our KPS students will be biking to Kauapea Farms to work in the garden all together for a couple of hours and to share some of the bounty from the garden. We are REALLY excited!
KPS is lucky to have an ever expanding garden program. The roots of the program go back a few years ago when a few parents approached me about integrating gardening into the curriculum. Many of our units of discovery had natural ties to the garden so when one parent said she had gotten us into the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center School Garden Teacher Training and that she would pay her own way if we could find a way to pay for a teacher to go, we jumped at the opportunity. The PTSA kicked in some money to send the teacher and a small garden program was born. We started by asking parents to meet and brainstorm some ideas. Luckily we live in a semi-rural area and many of the school’s parents are farmers so we had loads of expertise. Our campus is tiny so we decided to build some garden boxes outside a few of the classrooms, to offer a garden elective in our elective program and to start a Monday Market where we would ask parents to bring excess produce/goods from their homes/properties to school. Class parents take turns hosting the market and funds go back into sustainability related projects. The program stayed this way for a couple of years with the addition of several more garden boxes in Fall of 2008.
During the 2008-2009 school year, we were invited to a session with Linda Redfeather who runs a School Garden Network on the Big Island of Hawaii as part of the Kohala Center. Several other educators were there including representatives from Kaua’i Community College. Linda inspired all of us including one of the school’s parents, Jillian Seals, who runs a nearby CSA and education center for some of KCC’s students. Jillian invited some of us to the farm and we brainstormed various ideas on how we could expand our garden program and start a partnership with the farm. After working through insurance and bathroom issues, Kauapea Farms agreed to allow us to use a 2000 square foot plot. We decided each class would get 12 weeks in the garden. They would go every Friday right after lunch for a double block. Parents would have to help us drive since we couldn’t afford to rent a bus each week but the garden is only about 2 miles away. We also scheduled the garden sessions for each class when they would be studying units that aligned with work in the garden. We started the program in December 2009 and can’t believe how amazing it has been. Here is why we think it’s working:
- The teachers from Kauapea Farms collaborate with our classroom teachers prior to the start of each session and keep in contact throughout the twelve weeks. We are also lucky in that several of our classroom teachers have strong science backgrounds and gardening experience.
- We communicate with parents before the start of the session about the program and explain all the guidelines for the garden trips and for the composting part of the program.
- Students are BUSY at the farm – they each have their own plot to tend – planting, weeding, pruning, harvesting etc. in addition to helping with other farm duties including planting starts, composting, weighing the harvest and compost and all sorts of other farm related activities.
- The work in the garden is connected to projects the students are doing in their core classes.
- Having the parents drive means that we have parents working in the garden side by side. Some have their own gardens and some have never gardened. The parent-child interaction has been beautiful to watch.