Hawaii's outdoor classroom
Hale Kula Elementary School's new outdoor classroom features aboveground gardens, a rainwater harvesting system and curricula that will enhance sustainability programs in fifth-grade coursework.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- A new outdoor classroom at Hale Kula Elementary School, here, was officially dedicated, here, Oct. 25.

Known as the Saving Your Nation's Energy, or SYNERY outdoor classroom, it's the first of its kind in U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

"This is another great example of how our housing partner, Island Palm Communities, and Hale Kula Elementary School and USAG-HI work together and ultimately benefit our Soldiers and our families," said Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander, USAG-HI, in his remarks.

"Our teams have worked over the past several years to create several programs -- and this is one of them -- to help our Soldiers and families become better stewards of the environment," Mulbury said.

The school's fifth-graders will use the garden in sustainability projects. Key to those projects is a rain harvesting system. An 8-foot-wide, 9-foot-high tank can hold 3,000 gallons of rainwater collected from the school's roofs. Rainwater, free of pollutants and salt, will help sustain tall stalks of corn and vines of cherry tomatoes.

Flowering Native Hawaiian plants, such as pohuehue, or beach morning glory, and pualoalo, or hibiscus, will provide bursts of color in the aboveground garden. Raised planters provide seating and an area for these native plants and others to grow.

Native plants conserve water since they're adapted to the local environment. Mulch surrounds the plants to further conserve water by preventing moisture in the soil from evaporating.

Shaded fabric covers the classroom to keep students cool.

The rain garden will receive excess rainwater from the storage tank and filter the water through the local sandy-soil blend and gravel layer to the plants.

Mulbury told the audience that the garden will help fifth-graders learn how to take care of the land and water.

"The idea for this outdoor classroom came about a year ago," Mulbury said. "We're here to celebrate the completion of this project, and we look forward to all of you taking advantage of this classroom.

"This classroom is a great opportunity to teach you, our children, the importance of protecting the environment and using our natural resources wisely," Mulbury said.

A traditional Hawaiian blessing followed Mulbury's remarks.

Kahu Kamanaopono Aweau-Agres marked the start of the blessing by blowing into a conch shell to call the Hawaiian ancestors to the ceremony.

"Our ancestors would be very proud of the things that are going to be taking place here," Aweau-Agres said. "It's about how we can improve our environment. Water catchment is such a wonderful idea because we're reusing what has been given to us."

Lend Lease established the SYNERGY program to help create awareness about environmental, social and economic sustainability through information, resources and activities. Funding for the classroom was received through a $10,000 grant from the Lend Lease Community Fund. Also, the Environmental Division, Directorate of Public Works, USAG-HI; IPC; and local businesses donated more than $10,000 and 100 hours of labor.

Page last updated Thu November 10th, 2011 at 14:39