When the Hokule’a and Hikianalia set sail for Hilo on Saturday before embarking on a four-year voyage to 26 countries, many people in Hawaii and across the globe will be lending a helping hand — even those with the smallest hands.
Children at about 20 schools on Oahu and Hawaii island are growing and preparing food for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, both for the voyage and crew members training at home.
Although their garden is only about 500 square feet, students at Ho’ala School in Wahiawa take immense pride in their small plot of fruits and vegetables. They’ve done a lot of work over the school year to build and maintain the garden, from constructing wooden planting boxes to managing an aquaponics system.
The garden is primarily maintained by students in kindergarten through fourth grade, with older ones helping out with the startup construction and planting. On Tuesday the children beamed with excitement as they harvested kalo (taro), kale and eggplant.
“To me that’s a big part … to get kids excited about this kind of stuff and remind them there’s a lot to learn from just interacting with plants and nature and just being connected to your food,” said Ho’ala teacher Maggie Pulver, a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society who is training for the worldwide voyage. She added that many of her students have started gardens at home.
When asked what they like about the garden, the children all gleefully chimed in, with most saying they loved the eggplants and strawberries they harvested in past weeks.
Fourth-grader Averie Schultz, 10, said she enjoys the garden because “it’s a very peaceful place, and it took a lot of time to build it but it all turned out to be a really good experience.”
The items harvested on this day were for the kids, each getting to take home an eggplant and taste a bit of raw kale.
For the Hokule’a, students grew herbs and spices such as lemongrass, mint, rosemary and chili peppers. This is due in large part to Pulver, who liked to brew herbal tea aboard the canoe.
HUNDREDS of students from all grade levels at Punahou School helped grow and preserve food to donate to the Hokule’a.
Much of the food came from the school garden, a 60-by-40-foot area on the mauka side of the Honolulu campus. About a third of the garden is set aside for growing kalo, uala (sweet potato) and bananas that will be turned into nourishing food for the voyage.
“We’ve been planting all year long different types of canoe plants,” said Eliza Lathrop, Punahou’s garden resource teacher. “We basically had the kids start looking at what were the plants that Hawaiian voyagers would have used or cultivated in preparing for a voyage.”
At the beginning of the semester, a Hawaiian culture class made up largely of ninth-graders planted kalo and uala in the garden, which was then cared for mostly by sixth-graders as part of their study of food. Last week that same Hawaiian culture class came back to the garden to start harvesting.
“Today I feel like we’re doing a small part of a bigger picture,” said Aaliyah Fesili, the lone sophomore in the class. “I feel like even doing something small will make our culture even stronger.”
The class divided up the duties: One group cut kalo leaves that would later be combined with honey from the school’s apiary and made into a snack resembling fruit leather; another cut and cleaned stems from the uala that would be used to plant new crops; another dug up the uala that will be cooked, dried and cut into chips; and another cut up a stalk of sugar cane for the class to enjoy after its work.
The garden was created in 2009, and the voyaging food project was incorporated this school year as a teaching tool.
“The reason for the garden in the first place was to get our students connecting with their sense of kuleana in really concrete, practical ways in terms of taking care of the land, taking care of the place where they’re living, thinking about the significance of living in Hawaii or living in the island community,” Lathrop said.
“I think we see that in the voyage as well.”
For Fesili her experience in the garden affected her on a personal level.
“When I first came here, I saw the taro patch, and as soon as I saw it, I went there first because my grandfather, he had his own garden when I was small. And he used to take me and my little brother out all the time, and it was just like I was back with my grandfather again. It was a good experience,” she said.
Even after the Hokule’a and Hikianalia sail from Hawaii, the school garden programs will continue their relationship with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. The voyage will be ongoing through 2017, with crews continuing to train in Hawaii before flying out to meet the canoes on each leg of the journey.
The Punahou garden has a few baby banana trees for future harvests, and the students are also growing gourds they will turn into ipu the voyaging crews can give away as gifts along the way.
On the Net: For more information on the Hokule’a gardens project, go to learningcenter.hokulea.com
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