The Academic Impact of School Gardens

Harvesting flowers Mieko PhotographyMaui Teachers’ Perspectives

It’s no secret that students, parents, and teachers love our school gardens! During garden visits, students spend hours discovering the wonder of growing their own food; the gardens bring beauty to our school campuses; students, families and members of the community enjoy the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs they produce. As an organization, we take time at the end of each school year to reflect on how the gardens are fulfilling our goals of providing students with outdoor learning experiences that connect them to their food sources, inspire better nutrition choices, improve health, and teach them how to be better stewards of the land.

As we strive to grow, improve, and to “turnip the beet” in our programs, Grow Some Good conducts an annual Teacher Survey. We wanted to share with you some highlights from the 2015-16 school year.

Survey Results – School Gardens have a Positive Impact

According to the survey, a majority of teachers surveyed report that school gardens have a positive impact in students’ academic achievements in all core curriculum areas, and particularly in science, health, language arts and Hawaiian studies.

We know from more than eight years of managing these programs that hands-on, interactive lessons in the gardens improve retention and help reinforce classroom learning. Maui teachers surveyed agree:

  • 96 percent of teachers’ responses report that garden lessons were very or extremely beneficial in supporting the core curriculum area of science.
  • 72 percent said school gardens are very or extremely beneficial in language arts
  • 66 percent of teachers said school garden programs are very or extremely beneficial in supporting Hawaiian Studies.
  • Nearly all teachers, 97 percent, said school gardens are very or extremely beneficial in in supporting health and nutrition standards.

Teachers were also asked to indicate what attributes they have observed in their students who participate in school gardens:

  • 94 percent said they saw an increase in environmental awareness.
  • 73 percent said they noticed improvements in health and nutrition.
  • 44 percent also noted improved social skills and behaviors.
  • 48 percent witnessed an increase in community spirit and interest.

“We Love Mondays!”
Girls with Kale Wailuku El

Teachers shared their thoughts on the impact school gardens have on their students.

Leslie Farthing, sixth-grade Social Studies teacher at Lahaina Intermediate School, said, “This program has been incredible for my students. It is a great introduction to working in a garden. For most students, it is their first time working with plants. They really enjoy it and take pride in their work. [The garden coordinator] always ties it to what we are learning which is very helpful. I did not grow up gardening so as an educator I love the experience as well.”

Teachers also commented:

“The garden is a wonderful addition to our school and the kids love it! Thank you!!”

“My students are so excited to be a part of this program! They are planting gardens of their own and are so inspired by [the garden coordinator].”

“The garden brings out interests and curiosity that I have not seen in class.”

“We are very thankful to have the opportunity to teach our students gardening skills.  This is a life-long skill and our children are learning about how to be self-sustaining.”

girls hanging ipu to dry“We truly enjoy our garden time.  The students learn a lot and it is important to continue to educate our students about healthy eating habits. [The garden coordinator] does an exceptional job sharing her garden knowledge and skills with our students.”

“I truly appreciate the knowledge shared with our students.  This year, [the garden coordinator] had excellent lessons aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  Very impressive.”

“I enjoy watching my students investigating and taking notes.  It shows that they are really interested in the garden.”

“We love Mondays. We get to go to the garden!”

 

For more details, you may review the complete survey results here: Grow Some Good 2016 Teacher Survey Data

Hawaii Legislators Support Farm to School Programs

KITV screenshotOver the past few months, we’ve seen news highlighting school gardens and their importance to supporting better nutrition and local agriculture. On July 7, 2015, Governor David Ige signed Farm to School bill SB 376, which aims to increase the amount of local produce in our school cafeterias.

A recent KITV4 interview quoted Dexter Kishida with the Department of Education (DOE), “Growing it and cooking it are two ways kids eating behaviors change.” The report also estimates the DOE imports more than 80 percent of produce in public school lunches.  That number may be soon decreasing with the signing of this new bill.

The governor’s press release explains “SB 376, Act 218 established the Hawai’i farm-to-school program and funds a farm-to-school coordinator position. Across the nation, farm to school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from. Farm to school programs introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets. The farm to school coordinator will negotiate the complicated process of procuring local agricultural for our schools.”

Local farmers have had tremendous challenges competing with mainland prices and Hawaii DOE volume restrictions that require one vendor to supply an entire 256-school system.

“I think one of the important insights is that it doesn’t have to be the exact same suppliers statewide,” said Kyle Datta, general partner at the Ulupono Initiative, in a recent Hawaii Tribune-Herald article. “You can let local agriculture scale up to the community.” He said one of the early missteps in launching statewide farm to school was trying to get local producers to support the needs of the entire state as opposed to their specific areas.

“Maui kids eating Maui pineapple, Oahu kids eating Dole pineapples,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we should have more of that are completely possible.” (Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Some local charter schools have successfully incorporated local produce into their lunch programs because they manage their own individual procurement. Food hubs, where farmers combine their harvests for higher volume distribution, are also gaining momentum in other school districts nationwide. Here is a recent article in from the St. Paul/Minneapolis Star-Tribune describing one example of this venture.

“We need to make sure students are connecting and understanding where their food comes from and why it matters,” said Lydi Morgan, Coordinator with Hawaii Farm to School & School Garden Hui.

School garden programs are an important part of supporting this initiative. When students grow, harvest and prepare their own dishes using school garden produce, they are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches and bring that enthusiasm home to the dinner table.

If you’d like to dig the school garden movement on Maui, visit our volunteer page and introduce yourself! We look forward to seeing you in the garden!

October – Farm to School Month

Leah Belmonte, Governor’s Representative, Maui at State of Hawaii joined Grow Some Good and MSGN at the Lipoa Farmer’s Market today to offer this official proclamation.

“… proclaim October 2015 as Farm to School Month in Hawai’i and ask all the citizens of the Aloha State to support activities that heighten the awareness of farm to school and school garden programs as successful means for improving the health and well-being of our keiki, communities and the ‘aina.”

Grow Some Good also gave away about 25 ‘ulu trees, basil, tomatoes, chard and eggplant and received generous donations to support our program.

Hawaii Governor proclaims October as "Farm to School" Month
Hawaii Governor proclaims October as “Farm to School” Month

Mahalo to Governor David Y. Ige and Lt. Governor Shan S. Tsutusi for your support and seeing the importance of our programs.

 

Plant a Tree of Life – Grow ‘Ulu (breadfruit)

Grow Some Good, in partnership with the Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hana, and the Plant a Tree of Life – Grow ‘Ulu Project, is providing ‘ulu tree (breadfruit) saplings to the Maui community this month in recognition of statewide and global efforts to increase the number of ‘ulu trees growing in our communities.

photo credit: Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden
Photo Credit: Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden

These trees are about 2.5 feet tall in gallon pots and are ready to find new, suitable homes. This popular variety of ‘ulu originated in Samoa and Tonga and has been grown in Hawaii for decades. These Ma’afala (variety) trees are fast growing, more compact shape, highly productive trees that can begin bearing fruit in as little a 2½ to 3 years. It is still a large tree though, and should be planted at least 30 feet from the nearest structure or at least 20-25 feet from other large trees or tree canopies.

ulu tree & fruit
Photo Credit: Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden

Trees are available for pickup at Grow Some Good Work & Learn Days across Maui over the next month. To RESERVE your ‘ulu tree contact Nio Kindla below. Keep in touch on our Facebook page  or subscribe to our newsletter for latest dates and locations of these school garden workdays.

Only one ‘ulu tree per household or location will be given away at this time. Please let us know in your email if you would like additional trees, how many, and how multiple trees at your location will support community food resilience. Additional trees will be distributed late October, as available.

First ‘ulu distribution date is this coming Saturday, September 26th at the Wailuku Elementary School Work & Learn Day from 8:30AM-11:30AM. A tree is yours in return for an hour or two of your kōkua for this workday. The trees are free of charge but if you can support local propagation of more ‘ulu trees by Grow Some Good, please consider a $5 or $10 donation.

ulu
Photo Credit: Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden

The next distribution will be held at Kihei Elementary school’s regular second Saturday Work & Learn Day on October 10th.

For more information on the trees and this ‘ulu project see Plant a Tree of Life – Grow ‘Ulu.

There are multiple articles and images that can help in understanding the proper planting, care and maintenance of these trees. A great resource provided by National Tropical Botanical Garden!

SIGN UP BELOW to get your 'Ulu Tree or ask additional questions.

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Kamali’i Elementary 1st Annual Harvest Festival

harvest-6Grow Some Good and world-class chefs prepared gourmet cuisine from garden grown ingredients with more than 600 K-5 students and Kamali’i Elementary PTA parents and volunteers.

Big MAHALO to our team of awesome volunteers and Eric Mitchell of The Outrigger Pizza Company, Chefs Jackie Brown and Marilyn Mina of Ko Restaurant at The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, Chef Shannon Noble of Cafe Carmen at The Tech Park, Private Chef Nicholas Porrecca, JJ Johnson of O’o and Chef Jana McMahon, Maui Private Chef and Chef Matt Yakabouski for prepping ingredients – including 2 gallons of garden fresh basil pesto! And Mana Foods for donating extra organic produce for all of our end of year Harvest Festivals, serving more than 1,800 students in 3 South Maui Schools.harvest-24

At the Art of Pizza Station, students loaded their gourmet pizzas with beets, zucchini, carrots and bell peppers and a choice of pesto and marinara sauces. Then on to the Grow Some Good Lo Lemonade Station, juicing heirloom ko sugar cane and Olinda Meyer lemons for a healthy refreshing treat!

New Garden Sprouts at Kahului Elementary

A new edible classroom at Kahului Elementary School has sprouted from the passion, enthusiasm and collaboration of an awe-inspiring group of educators and volunteers. First grade teachers attended a recent school garden tour and turned their inspiration into action. The whole grade level is applying outdoor learning as part of their new curriculum-based school garden program.

Together we created soil nutrient building systems in each bed – while talking about lessons on carbon, nitrogen, decomposers and microorganisms. The awesome garden dig-in ended with a community picnic under the shade trees, talking story and appreciating all the good things growing.

Mahalo nui loa to Maui School Garden Network, Hui Malama Learning Center, ISI Irrigation, Ace Hardware and all the volunteers, students and families who are partnering with Grow Some Good to create an amazing gift of growth and prosperity for keiki and community. Check out more photos on in our Facebook album.

Food Economics: Where in the World… and Why?

Food EconomicsThe harvest stage of a school garden provides an ideal setting to observe interdependence of producers and consumers: harvesting food in the garden vs. buying produce in a store or a restaurant.  This is when Social Studies benchmarks can be supported in the garden and students can gain an understanding of how consumer choices affect food sustainability on Maui.

Discussion Points

Limited Resources and Choice: Explain scarcity and effects on daily life. Discuss water scarcity in Hawaii and how it affects farmers / gardeners. What happens when there is less rainfall on the island? How does it affect farmers? What happens if local farmers stop producing a fruit or vegetable? How does it affect the price? What happens when consumers buy imported produce instead of local produce? How does it affect a local farmer’s ability to grow more?

Role of Government: Discuss responsibility of government to provide goods and services – ie. In supplying water to areas where needed.

Economic Interdependence / Role and Function of Markets:  How do people benefit from trade (exchange of goods and services)? Discuss relationships between buyers (consumers) and sellers (producers) and how they depend upon each other. Why do farmers need customers? Why do customers need farmers?

ActivitiesFood Economics

  • Display imported produce: a tomato (from California), banana (from Ecuador), eggplant (from Philippines), cabbage (from Mexico) and ask the students to find where these items are growing in the garden. Have students search for “local” produce bring a sample of each back to circle (or a leaf from the plant if fruit or vegetable is not ready to harvest).
  • Locate origin of each imported produce item on the globe and estimate how many miles / amount of time each one traveled before being sold to the consumer here on Hawaii.
  • Discuss all the human resources involved in delivering that food (farmers, truckers, shippers, store clerks, etc.). Which ones require gas/fuel to do their jobs? Students act out each stage of delivery and exchange.
  • Compare the imported food chain to how many steps / people / how much energy or fuel it took to deliver food from the garden to the table.
  • Ask students if they know someone who grows food on Maui. Discuss the concept of local vs. imported. What is local? Are you local? Why?
  1. If you bought a local banana from a store that sells your uncle’s / auntie’s bananas, who would get the money?
  2. If you bought an imported banana from Ecuador, who would get the money?
  3. If a local farmer gets money for their bananas, can they grow more local bananas? Why?
  4. How can you tell where something comes from when shopping in a store? Show examples of food labels that list the origin of produce.

Final Observations / Questions
Why do stores in your neighborhood import food from other countries? Not enough supply? Not enough demand? Do imported bananas taste better?

  • Taste testing: Sample and compare slices of a banana from Ecuador or other country to an apple banana from Maui. Samples are divided on two plates with no identification on origin.
  1. Which tastes better? Then, reveal which bananas are imported vs. local.
  2. How does supply and demand affect a store owner’s decision to carry local vs. imported bananas?
  3. Which consumer choice supports farmers who live on Maui?
  4. Which banana would you choose? Why?

For more ideas on connecting students their food sources and sustainable practices, check out the free downloads and other resources available via the Center for Ecoliteracy.

World Class Chefs + 1,000 Students Celebrate School Garden Harvest Fest

kihei elementary school students prepare stir fry ingredients with garden grown veggies For three full days, April 24-26, world-class chefs led garden recipe workshops with more than 950 students in nearly a quarter-acre of garden space in the heart of the Kihei Elementary School campus. Kindergarten through 5th grade students and chefs prepared Asian stir-fry and gourmet veggie pizzas using ingredients grown and harvested from the school’s Pizza Garden and Gardens of the World. Students chopped, peeled and spiced their garden delights before chefs tossed them into a giant wok and wood-fired pizza oven and served it up in a pop-up café to celebrate the school’s annual Harvest Fest.

Private Maui Chef Dan Fiske and Capische? Chef de Cuisine Christopher Kulis assist Kihei Elementary School students in preparing garden-grown ingredients for a stir fry recipeNow in its sixth year, Kihei Elementary School garden, managed by Grow Some Good, has become a model program for integrating sustainability and nutrition into curriculum while inspiring future farmers, chefs, scientists, teachers and entrepreneurs on Maui. “We have observed children who are shy or those who don’t do well in the classroom, blossom just like the plants they are cultivating,” says Halle Maxwell, Kihei Elementary School Principal.

Grow Some Good is a nonprofit community program dedicated to creating hands-on, outdoor learning experiences that cultivate curiosity about natural life cycles, connect students to their food sources, and inspire better nutrition choices. In addition to helping establish food gardens and living science labs in local schools, the organization provides resources and curriculum support through community partnerships in agriculture, science, food education and nutrition. For more information about Grow Some Good, visit GrowSomeGood.org.Private chef Jana McMahon assists Kihei Elementary School students in creating school garden veggie pizzas

MAHALO TO OUR CHEFS!

MAHALO to Elyse Ditzel of Whole Foods Market Kahului for donating extra local produce to the Harvest Fest!

And, as always, MAHALO TO OUR WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS who make these special events run smoothly and inspire greater nutrition for our keiki!

– Nio Kindla, Terry Huth, Kathy Becklin, Dania Katz, Eric Ulman, Ray and Laura Van Wagner, Connie Mark, Jordan Lauren Claymore, Wyatt Gouveia, Anthony LaBua, Sierra Knight and Ruby Ayers… you are AWESOME! We couldn’t do this without you!