New garden sprouts up on campus

Haley Meyer, Staff writer

As the month of April comes to a close, so does Earth Month. Here at Moanalua, Belinda Toyama’s US history class has designed and built a garden between P9 and P10. If you’ve been in the area you’ve probably seen it once or twice already, bright green kalo (taro) plants standing in front of raised vegetable beds.

Toyama said her students are reading articles and are learning about Hawaii’s food systems and level of food security. Toyama and her students built the garden in the middle of February and starting planting in the beginning of March.  In addition to the taro, the classes have also planted sweet potatoes, kale, beets, spinach, and herbs.  

The garden’s name is Kaulupono, which means “to grow in righteousness.” Toyama’s students worked with Hawaiian and Polynesian dance teacher Kumu Kapua Adams to create the name.

After the past year of Covid, Toyama wanted to get her students away from classrooms and into fresh air.  

“It was good to get them outside to build a community and not have them inside the classroom the entire time,” Toyama said. “I think that was my main focus.”

In addition to getting outside, students began to think about where their food comes from and how dependent Hawaii is on imports.  Toyama integrated math and science activities as students kept records of the plants’ progress. 

Funding for the garden came from multiple sources. Grant money from the Kokua Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Univeristy of Hawaii Tropical Agriculture Department were all vital sources to help get the garden up and running. The Kokua Foundation is an organization started by musician Jack Johnson that helps schools build gardens. The foundation provided Moanalua a grant to buy the garden beds. The DOE  gave funding for the supplies. UH’s Tropical Agriculture Department donated taro and sweet potato plants. 

In the beginning of the year, when Toyama brought up the activity for her students, they were a little hesitant. There was nothing in the plot of land and students weren’t too confident that they could turn nothing into a successful garden. They worked hard little by little and when they eventually got the gardent beds down, Toyama showed them a before and after picture, and students felt proud and accomplished of their hard work. 

“It’s a great feeling to see all of our efforts finally come together at the end of the year,” sophomore Ariyanna Padello said.