Our Islands, Our Future

Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Ke Alahele Education Fund grantee, King Kekaulike High School, applied STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) funding towards Tower Garden® growing systems for an aeroponics project, “The Power of a Plant: STEM in the Special Education Classroom”. Aeroponics is the method of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. The project supports at-risk special education students, but other students also reaped the benefits of this innovative learning experience using STEM concepts.

King Kekaulike teacher Dori Pritchett said, “I have been working toward developing programs and experiences that would empower my students with skills they need to thrive in their future careers. Thanks to the Ke Alahele grant, I was able to obtain the vertical aeroponic growing systems with seeds, nutrients, and supplies−everything we need to get growing. Instead of soil, Tower Garden® plants grow in a medium called rockwool, which provides plant roots with oxygen and consistent moisture.”

Throughout the project, Pritchett’s students were directly involved in creating state-of-the-art farming solutions, beginning with the biology of growing food. STEM concepts showed how constructing aeroponic structures leads to the idea of developing large-scale systems that are sustainable and productive. For example, NASA has been studying aeroponics for several decades, as a way of growing food in space habitats. “The students integrated local culture through the creation of healthy food dishes designed with their own produce,” Pritchett explained. “The project lends itself to teaching them how to become entrepreneurs, create income, and contribute to the community. I’m grateful to MEDB for helping me provide incredible experiences like this for my students.”

The students said that the Tower Garden® growing system was a positive addition to the classroom. Tenth grader Adryanna Kurosawa noted, “I learned about aeroponics and how to measure the pH which allows the plants to absorb nutrients.” Samuel Contreras, 9th grader, added, “The most interesting thing I learned was that plants can live, grow, and thrive indoors. The aeroponic tower was a positive addition to our class because all the kids got to work together.”

MEDB’s Ke Alahele Education Fund supports a myriad of STEM education programs. The annual Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner & Auction, ‘Pathways to Our Future,’ will be held on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at the Wailea Beach Resort-Maui Marriott. For reservations visit

Dodi Pritchett, Study Skills teacher, King Kekaulike High School