Lessons For Keiki In Sustainability

Jonah Sanico, Kelii Sanico of Kanuikapono nursery, Kawika Viets and Alani Viets are going very green

A volunteer horticulturalist helps a school create a ‘living classroom’

Since 2002, the Kanuikapono Charter School in Anahola has pursued multi-disciplinary modes of learning, with emphasis on Hawaiian cultural studies.

The recent planting and propagation program, for which Kawika Viets volunteered his expertise, fits perfectly with the school’s mission.

“I have been incredibly enriched by the volunteer work I have done with this school,” says Viets, horticulturist and volunteer educator. “We hope this can be a project of sustainability that can be a gift to the whole community.

“They want to create living classrooms within a native Hawaiian plant and food landscape. For years the school has been growing and developing, but this year a permanent campus is finally being built and this campus is the most exciting thing for me.”

Viets is invested not only because his children attend the school, but as a resident of Anahola he has already felt the school’s positive impact on the community.

“They reach beyond their student body into the community, and this volunteer project is an example of how many Anahola residents care and are impacted by the school’s initiatives,” he says.

Hana Fridays, as it was called, lasted throughout the spring term. “It took countless volunteers to make this a reality. It was a wonderful activity with educational fruits,” he says. “We often affirmed that this was a positive and rich experience for the students, not just a work-for-hire type of job. We know from the students’ end-of-the-year reports that this project was one of their favorites.”

June 19 was the last day as students, kupuna, kumu and other interested residents participated in on-site learning and community planting.

“We still have a lot of design work and planting work to do,” Viets says. “For now we’ve planted the perimeter of the school, starting there to help protect the interior of the property from the winds.

“The school had the aspiration to include this knowledge in its educational programs, but it hadn’t found the person to lead it for them. I started consulting on landscape plans and helped develop this distinct signature for the school — to really give the community a totally native plant garden,” explained Viets.

His passion for native Hawaiian plants began 15 years ago on Oahu with his uncle Robert Moore, a professional conservationist and former Honolulu city planner, as well as a volunteer for state restoration efforts. “He was my mentor and inspiration. I knew nothing about Hawaii when I arrived, and I owe him a great deal for exposing me to the history of the people and the land.”

As Viets began to recognize the challenges native plants faced, he moved to Kaua`i and formed his own consulting and landscaping company, Kokio`ula Nursery — named after the rare native red hibiscus. Propagation, education and consultation are his calling cards. “Planting a plant is second nature to me, so in my leadership role at the school I had to really think about how to break the process down and how to make a student excited about it all,” he says.

Viets feels gratified that by volunteering his skills and efforts, he can contribute to the vision of Kanuikapono: Cultivate the 21st Century Learning Ahupua`a by combining the teachings of our elders and the best of the 21st century.

For more information visit https://www.kanuikapono.org/about.htm.

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