Students add fruit to their diet, campus
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Wheeler Elementary School fifth-grader Aaron Jackson shovels in mulch around a newly planted grapefruit tree on campus while third-grader Sofia Reyes pats down the compost, thus ensuring that the fledgling tree will retain its share of moisture.

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - In an effort to take better care of both their bodies and the environment, Wheeler Elementary School students teamed up with parents, faculty members and volunteers, earlier this week, and expanded their orchard by planting 42 organic fruit trees and shrubs around the Wahiawa-based campus.

Thanks to a generous donation made possible through the Fruit Tree 101 program, dozens of students were able to plant a variety of nature's most-edible delights - specifically star fruits, avocados, oranges, bananas, lemons, mangos and grapefruits - over a two-day period, April 18 and 19.

The planting also included several varieties of fruits that many students hadn't ever experienced before - namely miracle berries and Peanut Butter Fruit.

The program came courtesy of the international nonprofit organization, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, and the Stretch Island Fruit Co.

Katherine Drotos, the foundation's health educator, said that part of the program's aim was to educate students about the benefits of caring for their bodies. To reinforce this idea, Stretch Island Fruit Co., provided planting participants with delicious snacks made from real fruit.

"We want the children to understand where fruit comes from, and that's important for us to have fruit in our diet every single day," explained Drotos.

Drotos said Wheeler Elementary was the fourth school to benefit from the Fruit Tree 101 program, since the foundation began tree planting at Oahu's public schools three years ago.

"The American Heart Association recommends four to five servings of fruit every day, and unfortunately, we know that not everybody is getting that amount," Drotos said.

Additionally, the program also addressed the importance of connecting children with their aina, or land, in the hope that they will become better stewards of the environment.

To help, arborist Jackie Ralya led a hands-on planting workshop while education assistant and garden coordinator Pat Ganaban spoke about the school's extensive gardening program while students soaked up the warm weather and planting tips.

Several groups, in fact, gathered around the trees and helped shovel in mulch around the base of the plantings, thus ensuring that the fruit trees will be successful in retaining moisture.

"We want them to make as much of an impact on the environment as possible," Drotos said. "They'll be able to do that by harvesting and raising these trees, and enjoying the delicious fruit that comes out of that. If children learn to care for the trees, the trees will keep giving."

Near the conclusion of the planting effort, Ganaban labeled the outing a success. Still, she said, there will be much work to be done in the coming days and months.

"Each classroom is going to be responsible for adopting a tree," she said. "That means they'll be responsible for watering and caring for their own trees."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16