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HILLPARK KINDERGARTEN

TĀMAKI MAKAURAU/AUCKLAND

We always wanted to build a sustainable community garden, where tamariki can grow their own choice of plants, including herbs and veggies and learn the importance of the ‘Kai to table’ concept and know that food grows in the kiwi backyards and not in the supermarkets. We also wanted all our whanau to participate in it, which means free access to our garden and maybe showing their moko how to grow and look after it. We are very multicultural, so we have the advantage of celebrating the diversity of cultures through this Mahi tahi of growing a sustainable garden.

We consulted and sought advice from our whanau (with diverse culture) and community (Whenua warrior, local businesses) and enthusiastic team and nga tamariki to guide us with a selection of plants and guidance on water tank selection for our project. Our tamariki were empowered to choose the site and plants to grow the garden. Due to covid, we couldn’t pursue as planned, but we kept our whanau and tamariki updated with the developments. Our whanau are very supportive and excited about the water tank installation. Tamariki in our bubble have helped us in assembling the garden, transporting bags of compost, planting herbs and seeds, and watering from our newly installed and full water tank! As the weather gets warmer, some plants are already flowering, and we see tui, kereru, bees and worms joining us in our safe bubble.

We are regularly having conversations with our tamariki about rakau we have seen on our weekly Ngahere hikoi and the ones we are planting in our environment. We are already talking about making pizza with herbs growing in our garden. We are learning to recognise different herbs with their fragrance and shape of the leaves. Our tamariki are learning about growing beans, peas, tomatoes, flowers and other herbs and knowing that we can use most of these in cooking our dinner. We extend their conversations by looking at the worms while digging and their importance in breaking the soil. We are also talking about composting and how it helps in growing healthy gardens and healthy children. In the coming months we will get to see the plants growing bigger and tamariki reaping the fruits of their effort and learning more about sustainable living. On the whole tamariki are stimulating their thinking, exploring, learning to be kind to the environment including insects, bees and plants. They feel they are valued, as they are empowered to learn new things, asking questions and contributing their efforts in the sustainability living.

This whole Mahi tahi of growing sustainable garden has got us together as one Whanau. We want to conserve Wai so we can use it wisely especially in the summer months when it’s scarcity arises in Tamaki Makaurau. We kaiako as a team worked together to look for a sustainable approach for buying that won’t cost much money and will help local businesses in this pandemic. Approaching our community for help and suggestions led us up buy an old tank that’s been converted into a workable rain water harvesting tank for our kindergarten. This shows our simple and worthy approach to sustainable living.

As we wanted our tamariki to learn to grow own food, the easy way was  to help them choose the plants they wanted to grow. We had recycled some seeds ( beans, peas, pumpkin, sunflowers) from last year. Tamariki had this opportunity to grow their own seedlings and planted them in the soil. Tamariki were made to feel empowered in their own decision of choosing plants. We planted few in the garden, some took those seedlings home, and then COVID happened! But we do get to see their seedlings growing at home. Of course we wanted seedlings to be planted at kindergarten, but as long as tamariki see them growing at home and learn to look after them, it will help them to learn to grow for sustainability and it’s importance in the COVID times. So, the effort towards learning for sustainability has not gone wasted.

We have grown mint, spearmint, parsley and kawakawa in our kindergarten before. And our tamariki have marvelled and enjoyed the fragrance of these herbs. Starting a herb and Rongo Maori garden was to extend children’s knowledge about different   Herbs from Maori and different cultures. Also knowing that herbs grow and take little care to flourish, we know these will make terrific first plants to many of our tamariki. Keeping in mind, respect for different people and their cultures, our children’s herb garden consists of sage, basil, parsley, coriander, thyme and oregano.

We did a project on relationships with Rakau at the beginning of this year, this has inspired us to plant manuka, NZ hibiscus, kanuka, kakabeak, and pohotukawa trees. We have planted their seeds alongside already existing kowahi, harakeke and kawakawa plants. This initiative has not only helped us add native rakau in our environment but also will invite native birds, bees and beneficial insects in our garden.  We also look at the resurgence of māori medicine-rongoa by planting these herbs and natives.