DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kawaiaha'o Church School students and staff gathered around a kukui nut tree yesterday for a ceremony recognizing the school's garden as Hawaii's first certified National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat. Each class at this small school has an outdoor area paired with their indoor classrooms which they have improved over six years. The kukui nut tree was planted in recognition of all the school's work.
Kawaiaha'o students learn how to care for the land in a garden
Kawaiaha'o Church School students, teachers and parents have been quietly building an outdoor Hawaiian garden, or mala, on its downtown school grounds for about six years.
The Kawaiaha'o Church School Pledge to the Earth
"I pledge allegiance to the Earth, and to all life that it nourishes: all growing things, all species of animals, and all races of people. I promise to protect life on our planet, to live in harmony with nature and to share our resources justly, so that all people can live with dignity, in good health and in peace."
For more information
To find out more about the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat program, which includes schoolyards, visit www.nwf.org/backyard or call the Conservation Council for Hawaii at 593-0255.
The students now have 29 Hawaiian and Polynesian plants growing on their grounds and are sometimes hosts to eight types of birds and insects that enjoy the well-planted grounds.
Yesterday, the preschool-to-fifth-grade school became the state's first National Wildlife Federation certified "Schoolyard Habitat."
"It was pretty emotional," Wailani Robins, school program and development director, said after a morning ceremony in which 120 students chanted a special Hawaiian greeting to National Wildlife Federation officials in Honolulu for the occasion.
"The kids were just adorable. I was truly moved by their involvement and enthusiasm," said federation President Larry Schweiger. "The chants and prayers and music -- it was very special.
"The school is to be commended for creating a space that kids can be a part of," he said.
Schweiger was particularly taken by the school's "Pledge to the Earth," in which the students promise to care for the planet and all its creatures. "It would be nice to get Congress to say that -- and do that," he said.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jadie Chong and Kalehuakea Kelling demonstrated yesterday how they pull out weeds in the garden.
Each classroom of the small school has its own outdoor area to tend. The plants include native Hawaiian species and Polynesian species that early Hawaiians brought with them on voyaging canoes: ti plants, banana, kalo, sweet potato, breadfruit, coconut.
Yesterday, the school planted in its courtyard a young kukui tree that has a special significance. It sprouted from a 30-year-old kukui nearby that longtime Kawaiaha'o Kahu Abraham Akaka planted when the school building was new.
Kawaiaha'o was well on its way to integrating the outdoors into its classrooms when it learned about the national organization's certification program, said Head of School Shari Martin.
"It validates the work we've been doing all the time," she said.
One of the key goals of the program is to create livable space in a yard that wildlife can frequent.
The federation, which is affiliated locally with the Conservation Council for Hawaii, has certified more than 2,600 schoolyard habitats and 70,000 backyard habitats, said Matt Little, the federation's West Coast regional representative.
Schweiger will attend the Conservation Conference for Hawaii's annual meeting tonight and talk about the perils of global warming on wildlife and people.
"One million species will be extinct or on the road to extinction by 2050 if we don't turn around our current energy patterns," Schweiger said. "It's the single most significant threat to wildlife."
Referring to his new friends at the Kawaiaha'o Church School, Schweiger said yesterday, "I now have 120 new reasons to work on global warming."