In The Garden

Kulia i ka nu’u.  Strive to reach the highest.

The lush and colorful garden has welcomed the students back. Cover crops are ready to be “chopped and dropped” for nourishment and organic matter which will feed our crops. In the halls students always ask Zoe and me,”When is our class coming to the garden? We miss it!” Mala’ai continues to see all the students of Waimea Middle School.

This quarter we will emphasize striving for excellence. The beginning of the school year is a great time for our students to set their intentions for the rest of the school year. They will see the garden transform into a productive foodscape. Mala’ai will welcome local practioners, scientists, bee keepers, chefs, nutritionists and local farmers to enrich our students’ knowledge.

We are grateful to all our returning volunteers who make such a difference in our garden classes. Their dedication makes a huge difference in our student’s garden experience.

Zoe Kosmas continues to work closely with all our classes. She will be leading the afterschool program which will highlight STEAM activities and project based learning. She will also lead our intersession classes which will be culturally based and include meaningful connections to Waimeas’ canoe, Makali’i and the crew. Na Kalai Wa’a continues to be an important component of mala’ai cultural connections as we explore growing and preserving food for their upcoming voyages.

Last Update:

Summer is underway in the garden with Waimea Middle School summer school students participating in a STEAM themed 3 week session. They will have a blast learning at Mala’ai by creating garden structures, using a bicycle blender and continuing to care for our beautiful outdoor living classroom. When students return in August the kabocha squash and popcorn will be ready to harvest! It will also be time to dig in the cover crops that have been nourishing the garden beds over the summer. It will be an exciting time as we prepare to celebrate the new STEAM building.

Here is what has been happening in our garden recently:

April: the theme was `Ike
We continued to study Hawaiian moon calendar and how it relates to the garden.
Some words we studied included:
Aloha Welina Maikakau-A warm greeting to us all.
Kakahiaka No-A greeting used only in Waimea area.
We also practiced entrance protocol.

4/4 Word of the day-Pa’ahana-Hard industrious work.
We studied canoe plants: Ko, Wauke, Olena, Kukui.
We learned about Mamaki care and made Mamaki tea.

April 18 word of the day- Wahi Pana- Special places.
We studied the Waimea pu’u and Mala’ai and asked: What is a special place to you? Why?
We studied plant samples/ drawings using ko and had a sugar cane snack.

May 5/2- word of the day- Kaula-cordage
We learned about cordage plants in the garden-facts and practices.
We made cordage and ti leaf lei for wa’a builders and May Day.
Fibers combined are much stronger yet flexible. How does this relationship relate to you and your friend/family relationships?
We had a mac nut snack, yummy!

5/6 Hokulea and Anna’s Ranch with 6th graders
Protocol chant to ask permission to enter- Ku’ulei Keakealani led
We learned the mo’olelo of the pu’u, chanted on Hokulea, and heard about local history, past and present.

5/13 May Day

5/16 `Ike theme
Nature Park
Protocol Chant to enter/ 2 minutes.
We learned about native plants koa, uki uki, ohia and ROD. We learned the importance of parks like these.  We had notes/discussion of plants in the park and Mala’ai.

5/17 3 Grade Kanu O Ka Aina visit
Chant to enter.
Garden tour to compare Hawaiian plants Mala’ai has to Kanu.
Second visit the students made drawings.

5/18 Family Night
He wa’a he moku, he moku he wa’a: Our canoe is an island, our island is a canoe.
We talked about ai’ pono for the wa’a.
We did land stewardship demos and taught about cordage.


You live, we live, you grow, we grow

The warmer and longer days of Spring are arriving. With this new burst of energy, the students are noticing the kaleidoscope of blooming flowers and vigorous plant growth. All the students of WMS continue to work in the garden with their teachers through their “garden acts of kindness”. Current plantings include green beans, Yacon. Olena(turmeric), Kalo(taro), lettuce, radishes, edible flowers, fruit trees and herbs. Natures model of strength through diversity is exemplified in our mala.

Students have prepared garden tastings that have included; vegetable stir-fries, veggie pastas, salads, steamed Taro, fresh Mala’ai eggs, Kabocha soup, bicycle blender smoothies, Humus, and Mala’ai grown popcorn, to name a few. Two favorite recent quotes by a 6th graders are “I wish we could have Mala’ai snacks every day!” and “I’m a very picky eater but I love this hummus we made, I’ve never had it before!”.

Recent special guest included:

  • Micah Baker and Winston Wizinowich of Bio-Scapes Hawaii LLC. They generously donated 6 fruit trees that our students loved planting!
  • Amy Koch, Soil Scientist from NRCS returned to teach 7th and 8th grade classes with hands on field testing for soil types and data collection to categorize the soil. Students discovered that Mala’ai has some of the best soil in the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Kai’ana Francisco and Ardena Saarinen , Resource Specialists from the National Forest Service who came to the garden on career day (Thanks to Pat Rice). They taught students how to avoid spreading ROD, Rapid Ohia Death fungus, through shoe sanitation. Students also transplanted Ohia trees and learned that getting a college education is possible if you have the strong desire and follow through to make it happen!
  • Sue DelaCruz of Blue Zones Hawaii brought the bicycle blender again, giving our students the opportunity to make nutritious and delicious garden smoothies and hummus. This empowers our students to learn STEAM and nutrition concepts in the best way ever!
  • Mala’ai hosted kumu Pomai Bertlemann  and 30 middle school students from Kanu O Ka ‘Ania, twice, sharing the desire for all school gardens to work together and share ideas. They were excited to took back some new ideas on compost building and soil cultivation.

In addition, we would like to thank all our school faculty and community members who give generously of their time and talents to make our Mala’ai classroom such a fun and productive environment!

Harvesting the bounty of the garden as we celebrate the Makahiki season!

This quarter, all of the students of Waimea Middle School (WMS) are coming to the garden, including our highest needs students. Mala’ai works with 150-200 students a week. Their learning experiences in the garden connect classroom curriculum with real world relevance through project based learning.

We continue to see all the 6th 7th and 8th grade sciences classes. This is especially exciting as we wait for the new STEAM building to come on-line soon! It is a critical part of our success that the teachers join the classes in the garden. We are grateful for their continual commitment to the garden program! We also have the dedicated help of volunteers. Small garden work groups of 5-7 students allows for deep learning opportunities. Class topics included the water cycle, climate change, and nature as a model for technology. We also worked with all of the P.E./Health classes focusing on the pillars of health. Students learned about healthy life habits, refined sugar avoidance, diabetes prevention and the healthy benefits of a good attitude. In addition, 6 elective classes come out to the garden for garden lessons.

The Fall season has been very bountiful! Our students are enjoying the rewards of their pa’ahana, hard industrious work, put into the garden during the first quarter. We’ve celebrated the beginning of the Makahiki season, a four-month period of peace and thanksgiving, by harvesting Kale, Kabocha Pumpkins, Kalo, Uala, Green Beans, Carrots, Tangerines, Herbs, and Yacon. Our students have prepared delicious snacks from our harvest this quarter. No better place to do that than in Mala’ai! We had a generous harvest of Kalo and Kabocha, which we were able to send home with students and the faculty for Thanksgiving.

Zoe, our new staff member, continues to be a wonderful asset to the garden with her wealth of knowledge and welcoming manner with the students.

We’ve had many wonderful guest teachers this past fall including Executive Chef Massimo Falsini and his crew from Four Seasons! They prepared a fabulous free range chicken dish with garden vegetables! The students truly had a great time and learned a lot about what it takes to be a professional chef. Ma’ulili Dickson the Quarter Master from Hokulea and Makali’i, met with our 7th grade students in the garden for IKAIR day. He shared his many years of experience as a voyager and Quarter Master. The students were captivated by his stories. He reinforced the need of our gardens to grow crops for the Makali’i voyages and to continue sustainable practices to feed our island. He wa’a he moku, he moku he wa’a, our canoe is an island, our island is a canoe. Our garden continues to create and preserve food for the upcoming Makali’i voyages.

Other highlights included a productive and fun workday with Waimea’s Kamehameha Pre-School! The keiki and their parents were awesome!! They were totally excited to malama the ‘aina. Mala’ai also participated in the science teams “Steam-y Halloween” event in the school gym. Our table, setup by students, featured the 5 senses, all Halloween themed. There was great family participation in the event and the students had a blast!

We are looking forward to the classes starting in January. The garden is tucked in, planted with “cool season” crops and ready for the longer warmer days ahead.

If you’d like to know more about the garden, please consider volunteering with us.

*Join us for our next work day Saturday, Feb.4th.

Workdays are a great time to meet friendly, like-minded people. It’s the great spirit of volunteers and the many hands over the years that has created a truly beautiful and productive environment for our keiki.

*Volunteer with the garden classes. Work alongside students and teachers in the mala. A heartfelt mahalo to all the talented people who have volunteered their time and good work. We couldn’t do it without you!!

School has started and our garden is growing like gangbusters!

Ma ka hana ka ‘ike, by doing one learns.  

All the students of Waimea Middle School (WMS) are coming to the garden. This includes our highest needs special education students. The learning experiences in the garden connect classroom curriculum with real-world relevance.

The new 6th graders and returning 7th and 8th graders have all begun classes in our māla. Our long-term partnership with the science teachers allows us to see all science classes in an ongoing rotation. We also work with all P.E./health classes and 6 elective classes. We are currently working with between 11 and 16 classes a week. A critical part of our success is that the teachers join their classes when coming out to our garden.  

Zoe Kosmas has joined us as our new garden assistant. She is a fantastic addition to the Mala’ai team. She brings a wealth of farming knowledge and experience to our program. The students have enthusiastically welcomed her and we are looking forward to a productive and fun year together.

The first question students ask as they come into the garden is, “What’s for snack today, can I help make it?”  We are committed to serving healthy snacks to every student in every garden class. Tasting the variety of delicious and nutritious crops grown in the garden helps to educate our students’ palates every time they come out.  Already this year students have prepared and enjoyed steamed kalo, Mala’ai chicken eggs, jaboticaba, watermelon, ko (sugar cane), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, herbal tea, rambutan, and bananas. Students have harvested 14 pounds of popcorn, kabocha squash, ti for leis and food plates, ‘uala (sweet potato), ko, flowers, herbs and garden tea.

Despite the challenge of the “joyful noise” of the construction of the new STEAM classroom building going up next to us, we are managing to have a productive first quarter.

The spring planting of “cover crops” did a great job of keeping weeds out of the garden beds while helping to generate a wealth of organic matter for our soil over the summer. Students have been chopping in and turning over cover crops as we start up the school year. Theyve been looking at the nitrogen nodules and can see the impact of the cover crops on the soil. We are now planting green beans, cilantro, spinach, tatsoi, watermelon radishes, kalo and a science test bed of lettuce.

This fall Mala’ai classes will include visits by several inspiring kumu (teachers) including Lanakila Mangauil.  Lanakila’s teaching about kalo is a beloved tradition for 6th graders at WMS. His lessons begin with the Kumulipo (creation story chant) as he teaches the mo’olelo of Haloa (the elder brother to man). He then shares a chant he wrote on the lifecycle of kalo. After learning about the mo’olelo and chants, students harvest  and prepare a kalo snack.

 In addition, this quarter, we welcomed back Edna Baldado from Hui Malama Ola Na ‘Oiwi. She is a gifted nutritional teacher/nurse who emphasizes the importance of local whole foods, unprocessed foods, diabetes prevention and overall healthy choices in daily life.

 This quarter, Mala’ai is fortunate to have our first chance to use the Blue Zones’ bicycle blender! Students will make delicious local fruit and kale smoothies while getting some exercise, learning about healthy snacks and learning the engineering behind a bicycle blender.

If youʻd like to know more about whats going on in the garden, please consider volunteering with us.

 *Join us for our garden work parties. 9/24 and 11/19.

These workdays are a great time to meet friendly, like-minded people. It’s the great spirit of volunteers and the many hands over the years that has created the truly beautiful and productive environment for our keiki.

*Volunteer with garden classes. Work alongside students and teachers in the mala.  A heartfelt mahalo to all the talented people who have volunteered their time and good work. We couldn’t do without you!


Photos by our 2014-16 Food Corps Volunteer, Seri Niimi-Burch.

Our outdoor living classroom is a powerful place to teach our students and community about natural systems, health and wellness, sustainability, and cultural practices.  In the SY 2016-16 we had 297 classes in our mala, 113 of which were science classes.  We served over 6000 fresh healthy snacks to our students!  We harvested, weighed, and recorded 855 pounds of organic produce, and we collected and ate 896 eggs!  In addition, the students grew, prepared and packaged Ai Pono food that were sent to the Hokulea and Hikianalia: 4 bags of  Mala’ai luau chips, 10 small bags of herb salt 4 pieces of olena, 5 bags of Mamaki tea.

All this was made possible by an incredible 1,425 of volunteer hours.

Classroom teachers always accompany and work with their class in the garden.  All students come to our learning garden with their science classes in ongoing rotations over the school year.  All students also come with their PE/Health Class, their BPA/Computer Tech class, and their ‘Ike Hawai’i classes, in quarterly rotations over the course of the school year.  Our highest need Special Education students also work in our garden weekly with their ʻLife Skills” class.

During this school year we have harvested, eaten with our students, and given away 855 lbs of produce including: kalo, lettuce, pumpkins, ‘uala (sweet potato), herbs, yacon, pop corn, boc choi, mulberries, olena (turmeric), sweet onions and over 890 fresh eggs.

From our Students in their own words: Our Food Corps Service member asked students what they like about Māla’ai and this is what they said.

-Healthy snacks straight from the garden -Harvesting kalo -Learning about different crops and how to grow them -Feeding the chickens -Taking care/Malama Aina -Being able to share what they do with their families -Taking produce and recipes home to families -Growing and eating different foods -No GMO -Trying new things -Beauty -Starting new seeds and watching them grow -Something different than their regular classes -Being outside and breathing fresh air -FUN -Spending time with friends and teachers in a different environment -Moving around/doing physical work -Working together -Hands on learning by doing, not by being told -Teacher gets to know students in a different way and work alongside students -Feeling successful