Dana Anne Yee, Landscape Architect, LLC.


Project Name:Hokulani Elementary School Peace Garden
Location:Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Client:Hokulani Elementary School

Hokulani Elementary School, located at the base of Saint Louis Heights, is home to a newly planted Peace Garden that was planned, grown and nurtured by the students of Hokulani Elementary School. Unlike most public schools where students arrive to a patch of mowed grass and weeds, void of any character or spirit, Hokulani students are greeted each morning by a Peace Garden that is so special because it is a product of their own creation and imagination.

The Peace Garden is centered around the student's artistic, one-of-a-kind creative stepping stones that radiate in a circular pattern to represent growth, challenge and the future. The grassy play and sitting areas are surrounded by Native plants that the keiki’s helped select, plant, care for and watch grow. Whether reading on a bench, or resting on a grass mound, this is a garden that represents uniqueness to Hokulani Elementary School’s staff, students, parents, friends and neighbors.

The Peace Garden is a work in progress, with planned future art sculptures, entrance gates, patterns in the pavement, and unlimited imaginative ideas enthusiastically envisioned by the all the students who pass through the campus.

It is important to note that this wonderful garden did not happen overnight. Years of planning, organizing and applying for grants went into the development of the Peace Garden. The original idea for the landscaping project came from students who expressed the need for a garden where they could read and contemplate. Under the guidance of Principal, Dr. Peter Chun, a plan for a Peace Centered School took shape. Meetings were held with students, teachers and volunteer parents to brainstorm the many wants, needs and ideas for their school campus. Once all of the ideas were discussed and sketched out, a master plan of the entire school was designed. Hokulani's Librarian even got involved and drew a perspective of the garden and students helped paint the watercolors for future school wall murals.

Hokulani School buildings are laid out by divisions of primary, lower elementary and upper elementary grades separated by open space. This allowed for each grade level to have their own identity and play area. The kindergarteners and 1st graders could play on the safe and colorful resilient surface shaped like an animal, such as a whale, below a new safe play apparatus. Students in grade 2, 3 and 4 like to run and play, so rolling hills were planned. The 5th and 6th graders, the upper class students of the school, like to spend their time reading and conversing. Their one-of-a-kind stepping stones create a path through their play areas providing a variety of areas to read and gather.

Although the master plan showed an overall plan for the entire school the main objective and first phase of the project was to build the Peace Garden. Focus group meetings took place and concentrated on the art group, plant group, sign group and the stepping stone group.

While the students were busy planning their garden, plans for funding the project took shape. Grants were received from the parent support organization Aikane O Hokulani, Foodland’s Give Aloha Program and the Clean Up Green Up Hawaii Grant. Parent volunteers with specialized talents contributed to the project, as well as the Lions Club, and donations from landscape contractors and suppliers assisted the many helpful hands of the students, staff and teachers to bring the Peace Garden to life. The first workday brought together students and volunteers to till the soil and prepare the ground for the planting. At least one hundred students and volunteers showed up on the planting workday. Under the supervision and direction of landscape architects and landscape contractors, volunteers were taught the proper way to grade the soil, plant the native plants, sprig grass and identify and learn about native plants. A special Koa Tree was planted to commemorate this event.

Proud new stewards of their environment best describes Hokulani's students. The keiki’s enjoy caring for their gardens by raking and weeding. And there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing happy faces as they arrive to school each day to watch the growth of their new Peace Garden.

Hokulani Elementary School was recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects in the year 2000 for an Award of Honor.