School Garden Thrives at Hale Kiaaina

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Gov. Neil Abercrombie (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR — With Earth Day on April 22, the adoption of a very special garden by St. Andrew’s Priory School students – and the lessons it instills – is taking on extra significance.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Dr. Nancie Caraway have welcomed the sixth and seventh grade students to the grounds of historic Washington Place and the Governor’s residence, Hale Kiaaina, to learn about growing fresh food in the thriving organic garden that serves as a living, outdoor classroom.


“The New Day school garden project represents our commitment to food self-sufficiency and the importance of instilling that value – as well as the knowledge and skill to do it – in the next generation,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Growing our own food and connecting our keiki to the land through hands-on environmental education can plant lifelong lessons that students will carry with them throughout their lives.”

The New Day Garden was first planted in 2011 as a collaborative effort led by Dr. Caraway and supported by a diverse group of non-profit organizations, state agencies, local businesses, volunteers, and students. The garden is dedicated to Dr. Caraway’s mother, Ellen Caraway.

“My mother Ellen’s greatest joy was seeing green things grow,” Dr. Caraway said. “She absorbed all the beauty the earth provided. We wanted her spirit of Malama Aina to inspire us all.”

Gardening at Washington Place has proven to be a source of inspiration for the students and teachers. For some of the students, this is their first time in a garden. Jessie, a sixth grade student, said she signed up for the Garden Club because she just “wanted to learn about plants.”

But her classmate, Genevieve, not only expressed the benefit of having fun with other people while gardening together, but also the thrill of harvesting. “It is exciting because when you finish planting you can eat everything you planted,” she said.

One of the seventh grade students, Nevaeh, has more expertise than her peers in this area and could already identify many of the plants growing in the New Day Garden. “It feels great because I can share my knowledge with those who don’t know,” she said.

The students also recognize that their school garden is located at an extra special venue. When asked what she liked best about gardening at Hale Kiaaina, seventh grader Brianne replied, “The hard work we put into it will be shown to the Governor.”

Teachers Murielle Sipola and Kaipo Walsh bring their personal experiences and passion to the garden as they weave lessons of “seed to table” into the curriculum. Sipola’s primary goal is to help her students eat a healthier diet that includes more vegetables. This semester, she is integrating the after-school Garden Club with the nutrition and cooking classes for the middle school students. As the world languages teacher, Sipola plans to feature the botanical names from the garden in her Latin classes next year as well.

Walsh learned about gardening from conversations with vendors at her local farmer’s markets. She is offering a garden design class as part of Priory’s summer school program. Her students will have the opportunity to design and construct raised bed gardens on the campus, modeled after the New Day Garden, to expand and connect their efforts.

The garden project represents the concept of laulima, or cooperation. The full list of organizations and individuals that have helped the garden to thrive are listed below.

New Day Garden Helpers

  • Hawaii Department of Agriculture
  • Hawaii Department of Transportation
  • UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
  • Fresh Start Organics, 1st Look Exteriors
  • Leyla Cabugos, Grow Hawaii
  • Matt Lynch, Asia-Pacific Center of Regenerative Design
  • Kokua Hawaii Foundation
  • Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, Hawaii Invasive Species Council
  • Jeremai Caan
  • Voyager School
  • MAO Organic Farms
  • Whole Foods
  • Cameron Heen
  • Kokua Market
  • Town Restaurant
  • MOA Foundation
  • Hawaii Carpenter’s Union
  • Kainalu Elementary Garden Club
  • Koolau Farmers
  • Mike Davis
  • St. Andrew’s Priory School

View video from the 2011 creation of the New Day Garden here: