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West Side keiki Grow Some Good

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Feb 26, 2015

Grow Some Good, a nonprofit community program, is dedicated to creating hands-on outdoor learning experiences that cultivate curiosity about natural life cycles. The program seeks to connect students to their food sources and to inspire better nutrition choices. Shown here, students from Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School — including Althea Badua, Alex Murillo, Juseana Delatori, Izaac Pacheco Garcia, Ian Cabello, Mauka Do, Keahi Hulbert, Kawika Kaili, Luly Baker, Ka’ala Kaho’ohalahala-Watanabe, Reynalyn-Mae Tomas and Charles Kahunanui III — exude their excitement to plant, grow, harvest and taste their creations. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

WEST MAUI – Grow Some Good, a model program for integrating sustainability and nutrition into the school curriculum, has expanded to West Maui.

“We are excited about new school garden programs launching on the West Side in Maui Preparatory Academy, Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School and Lahaina Intermediate,” said Kirk Surry, co-founder of Grow Some Good.

As a nonprofit community program, Grow Some Good is 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.

“We help establish food gardens and living science labs in local schools,” said Surry. “In addition, we provide resources and curriculum through community partnerships in agriculture, science, food education and nutrition. Students get to plant, grow, harvest and taste their creations.”

In the past seven years, Grow Some Good has grown from one teacher and three raised garden beds to provide school garden program support for 12 schools and more than 3,000 students in South, Central and West Maui.

Lori Fleuter (back row, middle) encourages her fourth grade Maui Preparatory Academy class to plant, grow, harvest and taste their creations with school garden coordinator Tricia Calhoon (back row, left) and Chef Paris Nabavi (back row, right) from Sangrita Grill and Cantina in Kaanapali. PHOTOS BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

The program is growing in the 2015 school year with the support of Chef Paris Nabavi from Sangrita Grill and Cantina in Kaanapali, and many others. “We encourage all that will enable more growth of school gardens while also inspiring community members to get involved in gardening and growing food,” Surry said. “It takes a community to build a garden.”

“We hope the next generation will learn to sustain the vegetable crops we eat,” Surry said. “That is especially important, because we live on an island. It is necessary to start their education early and inspire them to become actively involved in every aspect of sustainable living.”

In fact, it has been observed that children who are shy or do not do well in the classroom are blossoming just like the plants they are cultivating. “They share gardening information and techniques with the other students and beam with pride from the positive response they receive from their classmates,” Surry mentioned.

Actually, Grow Some Good incorporates a variety of math, science and other educational lessons into their school garden programs.

For example, students practice measuring perimeters and volume in the garden to determine quantities of soil and lumber required to build a new raised garden bed. They also design garden layouts using other measurements to determine how many plants can be planted in the surface area of the new bed. In addition, they apply math skills to decide what price to charge for the produce.

Tessa Chin, a fourth-grader at Maui Preparatory Academy, makes a bouquet with string beans she helped grow. “I love that our class plants our garden together and then eats it,” Chin exclaimed.

Grow Some Good began as part of a local sustainability effort in 2008. Later, with grants from the County of Maui, the Ulupono Initiative, Johnson ‘Ohana Foundation, Community Work Day and Whole Kids Foundation, plus generous donations from many local businesses, Grow Some Good matured into a comprehensive school garden program.

In 2010, two local chefs, Brian Etheredge and Dan Fiske, pledged to support the garden with a monthly stipend and to assist with fundraising and financial support for a part-time school garden coordinator. “Etheredge and Fiske, now joined by other chefs and restaurants, continue to encourage students to improve their nutrition choices with ‘localicious’ recipes,” said Surry.

Currently, world-class chefs, including Chef Nabavi, often participate in hands-on workshops with the intent to encourage the students to think differently about food and nutrition.

Chef Nabavi’s mission is to change the way that children eat through education and engagement in healthy eating habits. By supporting Grow Some Good and their efforts to bring gardening into school curricula, he hopes to revolutionize the way families eat at school and at home.

“I realize that each of us has the kuleana (responsibility and privilege) to educate and nourish our children,” said Chef Nabavi. “I am passionate about bringing healthy eating, sustainable growing practices and fun back into the way we eat.”

Grow Some Good’s goal is to share expertise with schools wishing to establish or grow their own gardens and living lab classrooms. “After all, these kids will be taking care of us and our planet someday,” said Surry.

The organization continues to seek long-term partners, expand funding and recruit community advisors in order to support healthy, well-managed, sustainable school gardens. With more support and assistance, they will be able to plant new seeds of change everyday throughout Maui County while providing outdoor learning adventures and greater nutritional awareness for the island’s keiki.

The Maui community is invited to the third annual “Taste of School Gardens: A Grow Some Good Dinner Event” on Saturday, March 7, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hotel Wailea’s Sunset Lawn. At this special event, Maui’s top chefs and school garden supporters will celebrate and taste all the good things growing for students in the school garden programs.

In addition, there will be fine wines and local brews, a silent auction and live bluegrass music. For information on the event, go to www.growsomegood.org.

To support Grow Some Good or donate volunteer hours, materials or funds, go to www.growsomegood.org/donate, e-mail info@growsomegood.org or call (808) 283-2166.