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”.