Nature Farming at Wheeler Elementary

Final Report for SW01-066

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $13,460.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Joe Lee
Wheeler Elementary School
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Project Information


The rationale of initiating a nature garden project is to improve student learning and well being thereby improving test scores in reading and math. It also raises awareness in the community for alternative and sustainable funning to enhance their way of life. Tests results conducted by the State of Hawaii Department of Education in May 2002 indicate that Wheeler Elementary has improved in math and reading. A strong partnership with the Mokichi Okada Association (strong proponent of nature fanning) and military groups (98% of Wheeler students come from military families) continue to flourish.

Project Objectives:

(a) to expand student learning and encourage career choices in agriculture
(b)to promote good stewardship of the land
(c)to enhance farmer's quality oflife
(d)to disseminate and encourage application of nature farming


Research results and discussion:

The fifth grade students took the leadership in starting a nature garden project They received professional guidance from farmers ofthe Mokichi Okada Associati University of Hawaii, and other fann cooperatives. They went on fieldtrips to near expand their knowledge on nature farming.
Once the students have prepared the soil through soil testing and tilling, soybeans were planted to provide the nitrate lacking in the soil and to increase soil vitality. A variety of herbs were also planted to minimize bug infiltration, which was found bountiful in the soil. Crop rotation was introduced. The soybeans and herbs were followed with cucumber and eggplants.
To support student involvement from garden maintenance to marketing, two assistants were initially hired and a part time teacher to provide integration of the garden in the school's curriculum. The project was opened up to lower grades though on site lectures and garden projects such as seed planting.
The project was a success that local news media took notice and articles were written in several community and city newspapers. The school received phone calls from the community inquiring on how to start a nature garden project or what to do with this or that garden bug! Most ofall, because the students learned through actual hands-on experience reading and writing about familiar topics and solving mathematical and life-application problems, the project contributed to the school's goal of improving student math and reading test scores.
In spite the success, more still needs to be done. A new set of 5th grade leadership has to be nurtured. Learning from the past year, the garden lessons and activities need to be refined and connected to the Hawaiian culture. A sustainable Hawaiian garden section is being planned (what to plant is still under discussion) including the building of a hale (Hawaiian house) to serve as a green house and hold gardens related activities. New produce will be planted such as cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes and lettuce so students can observe first hand how they impact the soil and if market profitability of these produce will increase. They also need to learn how to build an irrigation system to conserve water. It is the goal of Wheeler that
all students not only improve reading and math scores but to also develop appreciation and responsibility to be good stewards of the land.

Research conclusions:

The project was implemented as one of the tools to encourage the students' general well being and to tap on their different learning capabilities thereby improving reading and math skills. Studies have shown that effective hands-on learning programs improve academic grades, increase attendance in school and develop personal and social responsibility (1999 Leam & Serve National Study).
The nature fanning project at Wheeler Elementary exceeded expectations.
The test scores, a quantifiable evidence, not only)mproved (see below) but confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills were honed as stude~ discussed and made decisions on the garden project. It also provided education to the parent and community volunteers on the benefits of nature gardening and an awareness of supporting and buying produce free of manmade fertilizers and pesticides.

Participation Summary

Research Outcomes

No research outcomes

Education and Outreach

Participation Summary:

Education and outreach methods and analyses:


Education and Outreach Outcomes

Recommendations for education and outreach:

Areas needing additional study


Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.