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Leewardʻs Hidden Gem

Leeward Garden Provides Space To Experience, Reconnect

Nestled in the back of Leeward Community College’s Pearl City campus sits a garden that preserves the beauty and rich history of Pu‘uloa, providing a safe space for students and faculty to reconnect with the land. With views extending out to Pearl Harbor, the Leeward Garden is utilized to practice ‘āina-based learning, providing students with an opportunity to experiment, to grow and to refocus.

The Leeward Garden

A living classroom

Dedicated students and faculty share the responsibility to care for this space. Nicola Davison serves as a Sustainable Agriculture lecturer while directing student employees as the Shadehouse manager. Elliott and other instructors in the Natural Science Division have committed much of their resources to expanding the Sustainable Agriculture program. “I teach botany and agriculture. These two subjects are intrinsically linked to experiencing the natural world and working immersed in the outdoors. Skill building in these fields can only be done well if students get their hands dirty,” said Daniela Elliott, Assistant Professor of Botany and Horticulture. She goes on to add, “Our agriculture and botany classes have been able to use these spaces and the feedback that we are getting is that students appreciate being able to be part of experiential learning.”

Terraces of kalo, sunflowers, various fruit trees and other flowers can be seen along the Pililua slope, maintained primarily by Sustainable Agriculture students. This outdoor classroom allows for hands-on experience in plant propagation, transplant and growing and learning through trial-and-error. The process of growth and transformation are seen not only in the garden, but in the students themselves as they observe and learn best practices. An abundance of Native trees and plants introduce them to the unique sounds and sweet fragrances that make this garden most enjoyable.

closeup of maiapilo plant

A place for connecting and healing

Students consistently return to the Shadehouse and Garden Slopes to study their projects. They gain practice in sustainability while developing a connection with the plants that they grow. “It’s not just about the plants, but the people too and I think the ‘āina knows that. I think it knows that because it’s so responsive and so regenerative towards real love and care. It’s very powerful,” said Native Mala Worker, Val Fajotina.

The garden has impacted the well-being of individuals, especially through the pandemic. Zoom and online fatigue are continuously felt by students and instructors alike. “The pandemic took away a lot of our labs, they went online and it was making me struggle real bad,” expressed Fajotina.

“As an instructor, I am thankful to be able to teach using these resources and be able to connect with my students face to face. I think it is good for everyone's mental and physical health,” Elliott added.

Students, faculty and staff are all invited to enjoy the Leeward Garden. Bring an umbrella and lunch, or take a stroll with friends or colleagues while practicing social distancing. Feel free to offer a helping hand once in a while, or just study in an open and peaceful area. Take time to heal and experience this hidden gem.

—By Danielle Smith