What started as a Grade 5 design project in sustainability and gardening evolved to include all of the Elementary grades and resulted in the beautiful rainbow of container gardens hanging along the campus fence in the school garden.
Katherine Jones, IPAʻs Sustainability and Innovation Coordinator, challenged the Grade 5 students to create a sustainable container garden that would grow edible plants and require little water, given the arid climate of Kapolei.
“I wanted the students to focus on how to make the garden more sustainable, so they werenʻt just designing a garden with plants, but also thinking about the problem in terms of a sustainable solution,” shared Jones. “So they focused on water conservation.”
To start, students re-used empty cardboard milk cartons, not plastic ones, as the containers for the garden. Finding and collecting enough cardboard cartons turned out to be quite a challenge, as many containers are now made from plastic. In the spirit of reduce, reuse, recycle, Jones reached out to resources in the local community that could partner with IPA for the project, and the nearby Starbucks agreed to donate the many empty containers they generate as waste every day.
The Grade 5 students designed the layout of the vertical garden in such a way as to make use of the pour spouts found on every milk carton.
“The students created a design that made the best use of the water available,” explained Jones. “The cartons have pour spouts, so their design staggered the cartons in a way that when you pour water in the top row of containers, the water drips down and waters the rows below.” Ingenious!
The students also made use of the supplies they had on hand (reduce!), and painted the cartons with the rainbow colors of spray paints Jones had previously used to brighten up the tire garden.
They also selected plants that were hearty and edible, and for which seeds could be easily obtained in the middle of a global pandemic. They selected green onions, cucumbers, peas, and hearty varieties of lettuce, all of which also have short roots making them ideal for growing in a container.
It became a very large project that was a lot of work for one grade, especially with changes in class scheduling because of the pandemic. So Jones included students in all grade levels to participate, with each grade taking on a particular task. For example, the Kindergarteners helped with cleaning and prep, Grade 4 helped with spray painting, and Grade 1 students filled the containers with soil.
It soon became an Elementary school project that produced a beautiful, sustainable, rainbow garden that they can all be proud of.