It’s lunchtime, and 18 middle- and high-school students are enjoying the sandwiches they made together on the shaded lanai at Hui Malama Learning Center in Wailuku. The discussion is about local sources of food, the benefits of buying Mauigrown produce. It’s agreed—the food is fresher, it tastes better, and it keeps our own farmers in business. There are minimal transportation costs, which also means fewer harmful environmental effects.
This is one element of Hui Malama’s integrated curriculum, Na Ka `Aina Ke Ola – “From the Land There is Life.” “There are practical benefits of the program,” observes Pualani Enos, Executive Director and science teacher. “Hui Malama serves students with unmet needs; our goal is to engage and empower them and provide the tools they need to succeed in the workforce and as individuals. It’s about instilling confidence, teaching responsible citizenship, and providing the skills they need to be effective contributors in society. They learn they can be agents of change.”
Hui Malama’s program on food and its role in learning about sustainability works on many levels. The students learn about agriculture and visit farms, and they also learn about nutrition and eating right. The program teaches shopping for value and keeping to a budget, and the students are learning to cook for themselves. “At our shared meals, it’s an opportunity to work on table manners, social skills, and group conversation,” says Enos.
This year, the sustainability theme is food and agriculture; next year, the theme will be renewable energy, a hot topic on Maui these days and a likely source of rewarding careers. In addition to its current enrollment of 18 students, Hui Malama currently runs an afternoon GED program for 12 students, a number that will expand to 60 in January 2011.