It was 1987 when the principal of Makaha Elementary, Hazel Sumile approached Gigi. “Would you like to work with all of the students of Makaha Elementary?” She asked. So Na Keiki O Ka`Aina ( The Children of the Land) was born! Since then, all the students from Makaha Elementary have been part of the program.
Today, 600 students learn how to take care of the land. One grade a day follow a curriculum planned with the grade teachers aligned with the DOE standard. For one semester hey plant fields of corn, beans, lettuce, green onions, wonbok, pak choi, peanuts, taro and a varieties of herbs used for cooking and for medicinal use. They explore the science of soil, water, parts of the plants, minerals, compost, the monitor the growth of the plants. They learn how native Hawaiians have used different plants and trees for specific purposes. they investigate about the Polynesian migration, the formation of the islands, the Ahupua’a e specially the nine Wai’anae Ahupua’a. The children harvest what they have planted and take them home, they also learn how to cook them and enjoy them. Students also learn how to care for the animals in the animal area; the goats, chicken. Ducks. Geese, rabbits. They learn about bees and how to extract the honey from the hives, they also practice fishing in the tilapia tank while learning how to raise fish.
Because of the No Children Left Behind requirements, the program has undergone tremendous restructuring, but the administration of Makaha Elementary School and teachers believe that the children learn a greater deal if their lesson plans in the classroom are supported by hands-on experiential activities at the farm. The students do not have a “school garden” they have a “school in the garden”.
KE ALA – The Pathway
With the positive effects that the Na Keiki program had on Makaha Elementary students, in 1966, the Learning Center was created. Using the same principles as the Na Keiki program, Ke Ala was envisioned as a classroom without walls, the students are encouraged to actively participate in the learning process by using all of their senses. The program outreached to other schools within the Wai’anae Coast and throughout the island of O’ahu, making it possible for other students to experience their environment through practical activities such as caring for the animals, learning about how honey is made from an onsite apiary, doing hands-on planting and harvesting, discovering the Hawaiian culture. Presently, Ke Ala is visited by many schools and serves over 6000 students and adults. The General Curriculum gives an overview of plants and animals, and the Hawaiian curriculum teaches about the migration of the Polynesians, their traditions and cultural practices and the uses of Hawaiian plants.
Every year there are 15-20 or more of school on a waiting list that the program cannot accommodate because of limited days and personnel.
This program was started in 2009 as a way to encourage people to raise their own vegetables in containers at home. Many families do not have land, many do not have any gardening experience.
Container Gardening is less threatening and if successful people will feel more comfortable to plant and produce more. In one year more than 90 families went through the training, and more requests are coming, even from groups that take care of immigrants and houseless people. Workshops are available to families and groups on the Wai’anae Coast when and until funds are available.
In 1995, the Peace Center was completed and dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Peace Center is a conference/retreat center that provides a place where people from different countries and diverse cultures can begin to brigde the distances that separate us, wether it is physcial miles, or racial, political and socio-economics beliefs.
By coming together and sharing and learning from each other, we can begin to search for the common thread that will unify us in our quest for global peace.