Annual Fair Showcases Sustainability

Catherine Black ’94

April 26, 2013

Each year in April, the sun-dappled corner of Rice Field below Thurston Chapel comes to life with a flurry of activity. A cage of fluffy, egg-laying chickens attracts a pair of curious eighth-graders, while nearby, a young mother helps her daughter weave a colorful mandala rug from recycled T-shirts and a Hula-Hoop frame. Further up by the Winne Units, groups of fifth-graders come up with imaginative ways to solve real-world problems in a game called “Mission Possible.”

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Now in its seventh year, Punahou’s annual Sustainability Fair has become a School tradition that students, faculty, staff and the general community anticipate each spring. With booths, games, hands-on activities and healthy snacks, it bears a fleeting resemblance to Carnival on a small scale, and with a clear focus on green issues that range from native plants to reducing carbon emissions.

The Luke Center for Public Service assembled an extensive tent of arts and crafts. In addition to the popular Hula-Hoop rugs, made from over 20 boxes of recycled T-shirts and later donated to Helping Hands Hawai‘i, Junior School students cluster around
Nicole ’14’s table to write letters (in French) to their peers in West Africa. Nicole’s sewing project transformed old Holokū skirts into colorful drawstring backpacks, which she filled with donated school supplies. This summer, they will be taken to Senegal by the Wo International Center and distributed to 200 students at a local school.

More than a dozen community organizations ranging from the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument participated in this year’s fair, held April 19, 2013. But the center of attention remains student and faculty projects designed to educate, engage and inspire greener lifestyles. Eighth-graders studying “Project Citizen” presented the fruits of their labor: one group chose to educate their peers about the deplorable conditions of puppy mills, since children often persuade their parents to buy pets. Another group looked at the impacts of automobiles on the environment, envisioning an online carpooling system to make it easier to find people with similar schedules and routes. “According to the PFA, 20 to 30 years ago, there were more than 300 families carpooling at Punahou. Now there are less than 50,” explained their teacher, Rachel Hodges ’81 Lau.

This year no less than four Academy students focused their CapSEEDS projects on healthier eating. Kelly ’13 decided to adopt vegetarianism and find alternatives to the dominant industrial food system. “It’s really fun,” she said, adding that she had discovered a number of great places to buy tasty, more sustainable food.

When youthful energy is applied to serious issues like changing deep-seated habits, the possibilities seem boundless. At one table, fifth-graders Riley, Dillon and Hannah from Connie Carroll’s class spot a passerby observing their display of seeds and sprouts. “Would you like to learn more about square-foot gardening?” they ask brightly before launching into a comprehensive explanation of the benefits of a method that they have been experimenting with in class. At the end of their presentation, they quiz their listener on how much information she retained. Satisfied with the reply, they offer a baby bean plant and some seeds wrapped in handmade paper packets. But then the question is turned back on them: “Do any of you garden at home?” “Yes!” exclaim Riley and Hannah. What’s more impressive is the list of foods they grow at home: corn, taro, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots. In their young faces a more sustainable future is not empty rhetoric, it’s already here.

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