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Fostering Aloha ‘Āina with Lānaʻi Elementary Students by Kari Bogner

Updated: Jul 3

June 2024 – During the Spring 2024 semester, almost 100 Lānaʻi elementary students ranging from Kindergarten through 5th grade participated in on-campus aloha ʻāina workshops focusing on plant propagation and gardening hosted by Lānaʻi CHC. During these workshops, students learned about different potting media and soil, how to clean and sow seeds, how to pot up delicate seedlings, and how to propagate plants such as ʻuala (sweet potato), from cuttings. As a result of these workshops and follow-up sessions with individual classrooms, students became familiar with different types of plant species found in Hawaiʻi including native versus non-native, invasive versus non-invasive, and Polynesian-introduced plants. Students also learned how to grow a variety of plants—native plants (e.g., ʻilima, ʻākulikuli, and ʻaʻaliʻi), Polynesian-introduced plants (e.g., ʻuala), and a range of non-native, non-invasive fruit, vegetable, and herb plants. Some of the students’ seedlings were planted within fenced garden beds outside of their respective classrooms, and some plants were taken home by students to grow in their backyards. A number of native plants grown by the students will be out planted at fenced cultural sites on Lānaʻi, such as Hiʻi Agricultural Heiau and Kānepuʻu Preserve. Many of the plants propagated by the students were distributed to the Lānaʻi community at the Kupulau Festival on Saturday, April 27.

Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center student-focused programs haves centered aloha ‘āina. The Hawaiian word ‘āina is generally translated as “land,” but the direct translation is “that which feeds.” Putting the words aloha (love, respect, care) and ʻāina together, we envision a self-sustainable Lānaʻi and remember our past, which at one point in the island’s history fed 6,000 Hawaiians. By growing our own produce, we become less reliant on out-sourcing produce from across the globe, reducing our carbon footprint. By growing Polynesian-introduced plants, we preserve Lānaʻi’s history and become connected to culturally relevant flora with the greater goal of preserving and producing Hawaiian varieties of these staple foods. By growing native plants for outplanting at protected cultural sites on island, we nurture the greater Lānaʻi biocultural landscape. Students have embraced the plant-growing experience this semester and have enjoyed getting their hands dirty and seeing their seeds sprout into healthy plants. As one teacher mentioned early in the semester, the young keiki “are natural gardeners.” Their ability to learn so much information, to kilo (observe), and to connect with plants has made the experience truly rewarding for the Culture Center staff. These workshops seek to inspire the next generation of gardeners, farmers, and stewards of the ʻāina.

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