Montessori Hale O Keiki (MHOK) started in 1991 with a mission to stimulate young minds, support creative thinking and encourage self-motivated learning. MHOK leased space from Trinity-by-the-Sea church, with one building for its primary classroom and another building shared by its lower and upper elementary. However, MHOK has been wanting to grow for a while. School leaders exhausted their search for a larger piece of land, pursuing nine different properties. Then, in 2014, they learned about 14 acres for sale in Ukumehame, off Honoapi’ilani Highway between Kihei and Lahaina.
The property was owned by renowned musician and entrepreneur Sammy Hagar and his wife Kari. With majestic mountain views, it included a two-story, 1550-square-foot bamboo house, fenced areas for animals and irrigation for gardens. After doing extensive research on traffic, land use and permits, MHOK’s board members made Hagar an offer…and got more than they ever expected.
“I think when we told him what our school does and what the focus of our school is, both in Montessori and in environmental stewardship, he got really excited, and immediately offered us a chance at our dream,” explains MHOK Head of School Jessica Thompson. “He basically said that if we buy this land, and he’d love it if we did, he would in turn donate $250,000 to our school and offer a chance every year for additional funding to support our programmatic efforts.” With the added help from generous donations from the Atherton Family Foundation and Hawai’i Life the sale was complete.
Students are already taking field trips to the site, preparing the ground for vegetable gardens and a pumpkin patch. School leaders have been in contact with several local organizations, including the food bank, since they plan to donate some of the harvest to those in need, another cause close to Hagar’s heart.
“Ukumehame is all about living off the land, protecting that land, so it’s an amazing thing for the kids and the teachers and staff,” says MHOK teacher Lindsay Wurtzel, who explained that part of founder Maria Montessori’s educational vision is known as ‘Erdkinder.’ “She taught about teaching kids real-life experiences, actually learning how to take what they grow and plant and bring that to the table. That’s the whole point of Montessori, is that farm-to-table, that living off the land, learning about the world by building and creating.” Other plans for the property include raising goats and chickens, tending existing citrus and coconut groves, expanding the school’s Marine Science and Environmental Stewardship programs, planting native species, and creating natural playgrounds built into the landscape.
Once the Ukumehame campus is operational, the MHOK site in North Kihei will transform into an early childhood center including two primary classrooms (3-6 years) and a Toddler Program for eight to 12 students, ages 18 months to three years. We are very excited for this opportunity for Maui’s keiki. To learn more go to www.mhok.org or call 808 874-7441.
Image Credit: MHOK