Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship Education for Youth

Deborah J. Ward
4-H Extension Agent
Hilo, Hawaii

Debbie Ward pulls youth on her tractor

Program/Project Objectives:

1. Research-based curricula focusing on natural resource/environmental science will be used to train 4-H staff and collaborators statewide, youth educators and 4-H adult volunteers in Hawaii annually.

Sixty-three volunteer 4-H leaders, fifty-two teachers, forty-five college students and nearly one hundred families took part educational workshops designed to introduce the juried 4-H curricula in East Hawaii and statewide.

Workshops held for a statewide audience in 2002-3 include:
Horticulture and Gardening: 4-H juried curricula were used to teach a workshop for agents, agencies working with youth, and 4-H collaborators in September 2002.

Horticulture and Gardening: 4-H juried curricula were used to teach a workshop
for 4-H members and site collaborators at the statewide Ahaolelo in June 2003. Workshops were presented to a statewide math and science conference for girls in March 2003.

Conservation Awareness: workshops organized for intermediate and high school teachers and students in September 2003.

Workshops held for East Hawaii audience in 2002-3 include:
Watershed Awareness: Fifteen teachers from five participating public schools in the Hilo area are taking part in a watershed awareness class, and I am working with the science resource specialist to provide lectures, reading materials and field experiences in September 2003.

Invasive Species Awareness: Four workshops have been presented to students at UHH and HawCC on invasive species identification and inventory.

Ward provides assistance to several teachers maintaining school gardens. Workshops were given to classes at Volcano School of Arts and Sciences, Waiakeawaena and Keeau Elementary Schools: topics included plant biology and reproduction, soil preparation, planting and care of the garden, insect and pest identification, harvest and use of garden crops.

Ward maintains a demonstration native plant garden at Liholiho Garden in Hilo. Liholiho Garden is a Hawaii County Parks and Recreation facility in Hilo devoted to Hawaiian culture and natural heritage. Ward leads monthly excursions to the garden for Hawaii Community College students, instructors, and numerous adult volunteers provided an opportunity to learn about the horticultural care of native plants in an urban setting. Many youth and college-age adults volunteer to maintain the garden as a service project.

Ward participates with the HCC Forest Team program in maintaining the UHH/HCC campus garden for the use of students at events such as Earth Day, Math and Science Conference and others.

Composting and Recycling: Workshops held monthly. Participants included docents of Recycle Hawaii, preschool teachers, families at Keaau Materials
Recycling Center, families at Kona Queen Liliuokulani Trust youth facility, teachers at Keaau Elementary School and Na Wahi Charter School, seven preschools and Waiakea Intermediate School.

Ward presents composting workshops to teachers and students at Volcano Arts and Sciences Charter School, Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences Charter School, Waiakea Intermediate, E.B. deSilva Elementary and several HeadStart and preschool classes. Composting demonstration site set up at Komohana Ag Complex was dismantled during my annual leave in August 2003.

Mini-Society workshops were conducted for 9-14 East Hawaii adult collaborators in May 2003 by Dr. Linda Cox and Kaufmann Foundation.

The annual Hawaii District Science and Engineering Fair provides an entrée to the intermediate and high school students science classes. As a mentor, judge and sponsor, Ward provided assistance and training to teachers and students preparing for the contest.

During Earth Day in April 2003 Ward offered native plant and garden workshops to elementary and intermediate school teachers from public, charter and private schools.

Ward has joined the Natural Resources Career Pathway team to assist the DOE in developing NR standards and criteria for environmental education.

Over 1000 people are expected to attend the CTAHR Open House in November 2003 where youth and families will view displays about water quality, integrated pest management, environmental literacy, insect pest identification, and other information useful for health and environmental protection. Agent is preparing publicity, displays and interactive experiences for the public for this event.

UH/ Community liaison:
Forest TEAM Advisory Board: agent participates in quarterly advisory board meetings.

Big Island Invasive Species committee: agent participates in quarterly meetings as education coordinator.

Hawaii Organic Farmers Association: agent participates in quarterly meetings as education committee member. Works with HOFA educational coordinator to organize educational workshops for retailers and farmers

County of Hawaii Environmental Management Division: agent attends meetings and provides responses to queries as requested.

With the Office of Mauna Kea Management, Agent and the Mauna Kea Environment Committee continue to work with the University to ensure protection and monitoring of the Mauna Kea, including Hale Pohaku, road corridor, and summit region.

Agent reviewed the Pohakuloa Training Area’ s Expansion Plan document, and provided comments about the condition of the endangered plant habitat relative to wildland fire and ungulate predation.

Agent has participated in a Community Development Assessment in collaboration with the County Prosecutor’s Office to provide a compendium of youth-serving agencies and programs to combat the effects of crystal methamphetamine use in youth.

2. Five hundred youth annually will gain knowledge and skills through after-school, community, and traditional 4-H club activities emphasizing agriculture and resource management.

Eleven hundred school public school students learned hands-on skills in botany, horticulture, composting, entomology, water quality, recycling, conservation awareness and endangered species awareness.

Two hundred fifty-four 4-H members in sixteen 4-H clubs took part in 4-H Club activities and East Hawaii 4-H Federation programs. Club members and adult advisors organized 4-H Cloverbud Fun Day for community youth aged 5-9 years, 4-H Rally Day for junior youth aged 9-13 years, and 4-H County Camp for community youth aged 13-17 years of age. These venues offered youth and families an opportunity to take part in non-formal educational programming. Nutrition education, leadership skills, natural resources, service learning, literacy, and public speaking skills were enhanced by these programs. In addition, programs for youth included record keeping and resume building at the 4-H Record Book Workshop. Creative arts were fostered at the Project Linus Blanket project workshop, Creative Arts Day, Holiday Activity, and others. Presentation Day offered youth an opportunity to practice public speaking and demonstration skills, exhibit their work, judge and compare products, and provide constructive feedback to each other.

3. Youth, teens and adults will put their knowledge to use through practical action, using leadership, communication and group process skills.

Students organized and took part in community service activities such as native plant propagation, planting and maintenance in an urban public park, setting up a composting and recycling facility at a school, using GPS and compass to walk transects to identify and measure impact of invasive species at a national wildlife refuge, cleaning of anchialine ponds to enhance the water quality so that native opae-ula could return to the pools, and planting of native palms and wiliwili at a shoreline park.

The East Hawaii 4-H Federation and the East Hawaii 4-H Leaders Council meet in executive session month, and with full membership quarterly. The executive boards and the standing committee members make the decisions regarding budgeting and fundraising to conduct the programs they decide to run. They offer leadership training workshops regularly to build skills and competency among the youth and adults. They plan the educational program for the year with the advice of the agent. The clubs also organize the annual 4-H Leaders Recognition and 4-H Awards Banquet. This year the group focused on an international theme, with foods from many countries, cultural costumes, dances and musical performances.

Adult and teen volunteer leaders in the community conducted a survey of East Hawaii members and families to determine the desired focus of youth programming; as a result they planned and carried out the following 4-H programs: Cloverbud Fun Day, Rally Day, Presentation Day, Creative Arts Day, Christmas Program, Fashion Revue, 4-H County Camp, Read To Me, and 4-H Leaders' Recognition and Awards Program.

Eighteen 4-H teens and 68 adults volunteered to assist with the kindergarten transition programs, "KAMP" held at the eight East Hawaii school sites in July and August, 2003. A $3000 grant obtained from the Hawaii 4-H Foundation provided the funds to sponsor this project.

As a result of active leadership and community service, accurate records, and skill development in the 4-H program, three 4-H members from East Hawaii were selected as State delegates to the 2003 National 4-H Congress. Two 4-H members received Leaders Council travel scholarships to attend Western Regional Leaders Forum in 2003 in Oregon. Two East Hawaii 4-Her members were selected to represent the Hawaii 4-H Tech Corps. A 4-H club received a Hawaii Service Learning award for outreach to the Puna Community. The Dragon’s Eye 4-H club was awarded 4th place in the national Colgate Award for Community Service.

4. Extension faculty in collaboration with community and governmental agency personnel will secure funding to develop educational materials for youth and adults about natural resource issues.

With extension assistance, faculty at two elementary schools were able to obtain funding for natural resource projects on water quality, gardening and native plant propagation.

The East Hawaii 4-H program is partnering with the Dragon’s Eye Learning Center in Kapoho to provide a variety of experiential education opportunities to the children of the Puna district. The families of the Puna district on the Big Island are challenged by poverty, lack of health care, lack of transportation, and the highest rates of social dysfunction in the state of Hawaii. Services for children are virtually absent. The approach being offered by the Dragon’s Eye Learning center, providing educational services for children in many circumstances including home school, after-school, and weekends, is a welcome innovation. The programs offered by the center balance the physical, intellectual and emotional needs of the children in a way that enhances both self-esteem and developmental skills while building readiness for academic literacy. The programs are cross-generational and provide a high degree of mentoring for the youth involved. The instructors offer programs in dance, art, theatre, music, performance arts, animal husbandry, environmental education, sustainable living and entrepreneurship. The partnership with the 4-H youth program provides the youth an opportunity to take part in local, regional, and national educational events, and provides the instructors access to the juried curriculum, research and faculty of the University Land Grant system nationwide. The Hawaii 4-H Foundation has provided the non-profit 501c.3 base for an application for a $5000 grant from the Atherton Foundation to provide after-school educational opportunities in gardening, performance arts, literacy and sustainable living. The project was funded, and three 4-H clubs are active now at the Center.

4-H club members organized fundraising projects to raise $6,000 by purchasing ingredients, holding a cookie baking workshop, packaging, labeling and marketing the products, and managing the financial accounting. Leaders conducted a fund appeal through former members, leaders, and community supporters to raise funds for the travel and educational scholarships for selected 4-H members in good standing.


School students initiated a Read To Me club, wherein members aged 6th-8th grade select books to read to kindergartners and first graders to encourage them to learn to read. Other students designed murals for their new charter school and painted the offices during a school break. Students organized and took part in community service activities such as native plant propagation, planting and maintenance in an urban public park, setting up a composting and recycling facility at a school, using GPS and compass to walk transects to identify and measure impact of invasive species at a national wildlife refuge, cleaning of anchialine ponds to enhance the water quality so that native opae-ula could return to the pools, and planting of native palms and wiliwili at a shoreline park.

4-H Club members took part in community service projects such as Hawaii County Zoo beautification and maintenance (monthly), Casey Family outreach, gifts to families who were orphaned by the 9/11 bombing, washing and mending for the Teddy Bear Club and food baskets for needy families. Community Recycling, food bank donations, senior activities in Papaikou, community and school performances by theater, circus and gymnastics clubs, elder care service projects have all been completed by 4-H clubs in East Hawaii this year. These projects were initiated and conducted by the club members themselves.

4-H Federation members attended the Hawaii County Council meeting wearing 4-H Do It For Youth shirts, and presented testimony regarding the passage of Bill 362, to have a smoke free workplace environment in which young people can work, including bars and restaurants. The County passed the bill, and council members commented that they were touched and impressed by the message presented by the 4-H members.

At Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, agent worked with Hawaii Community College students and adult volunteers, who learned to identify several of the rare, threatened and endangered species on the Refuge, and took steps to increase their numbers. They in turn shared the skills they learned with over 200 visitors to the Refuge Open House.

Statewide 4-H staff, adult and teen volunteers completing formal and non-formal educational programs have shown subject matter competency as measured by test instruments and record books judged by community leaders and professionals.

Seventy-five adult and teen volunteers in the 4-H youth program annually use curriculum to offer educational programs to youth in a variety of community settings such as community clubs, after-school programs, community events, literacy programs, school enrichment and other non-formal education settings.

Youth taking part in formal and non-formal educational programs are putting knowledge to use through community improvement projects that demonstrate understanding of subject matter in natural resource management. Communities are enhanced by the improvement projects, tourists and residents utilize the facilities, natural resources values are enhanced, and the economy is strengthened by this work.

Over two hundred youth work collaboratively in communities to formulate appropriate action. Youth in 4-H clubs demonstrate leadership, group process skills and effective communication to accomplish their goals as reflected in journals and self-reporting documents. Youth-organized events provide prevention models that reduce drug use, avoid premature sexual activity, and enhance work preparedness skills for adolescents.

Enrollment in natural resource programs has increased in University of Hawaii CTAHR- NREM and at the Hawaii Community College, and students enrolled expect to earn credentials that will lead to careers in sustainable agriculture and natural resource protection. Hawaii-educated workers in natural resources are effective at planning management strategies and carrying them out in a way that enhances our resource values. These skills are transferable to tropical and sub-tropical regions across the globe.

Collage of Environmental Stewardship Projects


To find out more about the 4-H Youth Development Program in Hawaii, link to

For more information about organic farming, or to contact the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, link to

For more information about the Hawaii Community College's Forest TEAM Program, link to

For more information about Hawaii's Invasive Species link to Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project

To learn more about GIS, link to Hawaii Statewide GIS Program

To find out more about the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, link to

Learn to make a compost pile for yourself! Link to Recycle Hawaii at