Field of Learning

School garden projects on the Big Island

School garden projects have been thriving on the Big Island for nearly a decade with one of the earliest established at Waimea Middle School in 2003. Today, more than a dozen of the island’s private, charter and public schools are cultivating gardens created by their students. Organizers, teachers, parents and volunteers all sing praises, explaining that these interactive projects are easily integrated into existing school curriculums and provide an excellent hands-on experience, allowing children to learn about nurturing nature as well as sustainability.

Lessons learned in the gardens touch on subjects of math and spatial skills, as well as art, writing, vocabulary and spelling (students are encouraged to keep journals detailing their observations and other assignments like creating garden newsletters). Taking it even further, some students are venturing into the world of marketing and business, since many of the gardens now sell their bounty at local farmers markets, which requires knowledge and training in merchandising, advertising and sales. School garden projects touch perhaps most directly on scientific studies and according to Garden of Wonders, one of the nation’s most respected food and garden educational programs, students in third through fifth grades who participate in these interactive projects score significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to students who do not. Taking the harvest from farm to table and further participating in the culinary arts also brings eating fresh and healthy into an everyday focus!

Perhaps Waimea Middle School’s new mission statement, adopted in August 2011, sums it up best: “The CulinaryGarden of Waimea Middle School cultivates the relationship between students and the land through growing and sharing nourishing food in our outdoor living classroom. Our work reaches beyond the boundaries of our garden, connecting land stewardship, culture, health and pleasure with lifelong learning.”

For the 2011-2012 school year, the Waimea Middle School gardens added a new vegetable cooking station and germination station. As the garden has expanded extensively over the years, it now reflects the hard work of nearly 2,000 students.

Last fall, Executive Sous Chef Nick Mastrascusa of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai brought his culinary team to Waimea Middle School to check out their learning garden. While there, he and his team presented a cooking demonstration. Teaming up with the participating children, they created a special recipe using the fruits and vegetables from the field of learning. We’re delighted to share the recipe behind their unique and collaborative creation—a delicious Hibiscus and Baby Romaine Salad.


Hibiscus & Baby Romaine Salad with Citrus Lilikoi Vinaigrette

By Chef Nick and Waimea Middle School Students



2 oz. Fresh lilikoi (passion fruit)

2 oz. Fresh lemon juice

2 oz. Fresh tangelo juice

2 cups Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste



Baby romaine leaves

Edible hibiscus leaves

Yakon, peeled and julienned

Edible flowers for garnish


Directions: For the vinaigrette, extract fresh lilikoi juice from the fruit. Be sure to strain out all seeds and pulp. Mix with lemon juice, tangelo juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to preferred taste. Toss all greens and garnishes with the yakon and mix in vinaigrette. Serve and enjoy!


For a complete list and description of all school garden projects here on the Big Island, visit 




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