With the theme of repurposing and sustainability, second graders created special holiday gifts made from recycled items and hala tree seedlings for members served by a homeless outreach group and residents of a local elder care facility, along with nurses and aides.
“In the spirit of Christmas, we really were trying to get our kids to be of service to others,” said Natalie Hayashi, one of the second grade teachers whose class participated in the project as an alternative to a Secret Santa gift exchange. “The one thing we want the kids to get out of this is the idea that every small act of kindness can go so far without them realizing.”
Student assembled care packages of unused toiletries from past travels and made bright holiday cards to donate to the homelessness outreach organization. To lift the spirits of 80 residents at a care facility, students created ornaments, such as snowmen, Santa and reindeers, from cardboard, popsicle sticks and other recycled materials.
They also had a special gift for the 60 nurses and aides at the facility – hala tree seedlings from campus potted in decorated repurposed yogurt containers. Guided by the Outdoor Education faculty, students hiked up Pu’u o Mānoa (Rocky Hill) to learn about its sacred history. They then harvested the sprouted hala tree seedlings found at the bottom of the area’s many hala trees.
They added a loving touch to the plants, imbuing them with good energy, or mana, before sending them off to the recipients. “Students held their plants, some named them, and really put positive thoughts, prayers and good energy with the hopes that they could transfer this to others,” Hayashi said.
As part of the gift, students included a message about the meaning of the hala tree and Pu’u o Mānoa. “That is part of the story for the nurses, about how it’s not just any old plant, but it has significance to the children here,” Hayashi said.