Students tend to the māla as part of EN102
Pushing a wheelbarrow in the māla, Zachary “Pono” Narcisco was learning how to garden—not exactly what he had in mind when he enrolled in his English class. The “cultivating” effort is all part of Dr. Koreen Nakahodo’s mandatory service-learning component of her EN102 Composition and Rhetoric course.
“We have to do at least six hours of service learning,” said Narcisco, a freshman and an aspiring nurse. “Dr. Nakahodo asked us to write about our experience at the māla, and what value we can bring out from gardening.”
Many universities offer some form of service-learning, which is an educational approach that combines community service with academic learning to provide students with a holistic and hands-on learning experience. This experiential learning approach also helps students deepen their understanding of course material and how it applies to the everyday world.
“Unlike community service—which might include something like a one-day beach clean-up and then you go home—service learning directly connects service-to-course content,” said Mitch Steffey, Chaminade’s Associate Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement Service. “Learners try to apply aspects of the course while simultaneously working to satisfy the needs of the community.”
Nakahodo’s pedagogical approach to teaching is based on three principles: place, space and transactional writing. For this Fall’s EN102, she initially themed it “Food Insecurity,” which would have involved Christina Klimo, University of Dayton’s Write Place Coordinator with the Office of Learning Resource.
“Two years ago, we met while participating in the Marianist Educational Associates formation program, and we shared similar ideas,” said Nakahodo, who has taught at Chaminade since 1998. “Then we started having weekly Zoom meetings and it just progressed from there.”
After numerous Zoom conference calls, Nakahodo and Klimo had coordinated to collaborate on a course this term that would be based on the two universities’ community gardens, hence the theme. The first session was hosted by Silverswords who held up their laptops to capture the views of Diamond Head and the ocean to show the UD students.
“It was a get-to-know-each-other meeting,” Nakahodo said. “The second session was going to be hosted by UD and the third session would have been a collaborative effort. But unfortunately, Christina got sick and we had to postpone the session.”
Shoveling mulch into the wheelbarrow, sophomore Maka‘ala Ng said it’s difficult to grow plants and vegetables in this garden because of the quality of the soil, but they’ll persist, as long as students keep helping to tend the garden.
“When vegetables do start growing, we’re going to give them away,” said Ng, an Environmental Science and Environmental Studies double major. “Right now, we’re planting corn, peas, cucumbers and indigenous plants. We also apply three different methods to compost waste: tumbler, which looks like a cement mixer; vermicomposting or worm farm composting; and in-ground composting.”
Steffey has spearheaded the garden endeavor for the past couple of years with the help of students like Narcisco and Ng, and professors like Nakahodo who want to address the disconnection between island residents living in today’s fast-paced, consumer-oriented society and their lack of awareness of food origins and production.
“Eighty-five to 90 percent of our food is imported,” Steffey said. “We need policies and actions to increase the amount of locally grown food consumed by Hawaii’s residents. And we’re trying to do our own little part for our community.”