Ecological building principles are woven through Landscape design at Waikino School

| By Beccy Dove, Enviroschools facilitator

Students have been having fun stomping in the mud at Waikino School. They have been creating clay structures for the corners of their ‘student designed’ school/community gardens.

Local Permaculture designer and clay worker, Rose Tuffery, has been on board from the start of the project working with students and Jo Wheway (Principal) to gather ideas, create a plan and explore the school grounds to see what resources they could use.

The garden is part way built, the fale structure, raised beds, pagola and pathways have been established through community working bees.  Over the past term the students have been focusing on planting it up and building the adobe corners.  Students show a real pride and ownership in the whole project.

Students all contributed to the garden design.

Mason Buckfort described how “we put part of everyone’s design into one.”

They are really excited to see their part of the plan now visible.  Students Duncan and Mason can see their groups design in the shape of the garden beds, Asha can see hers in the middle pagola, with space for grapes to climb up.  Another group designed the living roof, with a plan for succulents to grow along the top of one of the corner structures … serving also to keep the adobe as dry as possible.

Students have been part of all aspects of the ‘adobe corners’ project.  They have cut down and trimmed the bamboo, (sourced from the school grounds) and with the help of adults they have built the initial structure, adding in glass bottles to add beauty and interesting light effects.

Mixing the hay into the clay.

Preparing the framework for the next garden wall.









They have been learning the process of making adobe and getting their hands and feet gloriously dirty stomping clay, sand and hay into the mix.  It takes a lot of work to get the mix to the right consistency and students have had to work as a team and have patience and resilience to achieve a finished product that will last the test of time.  They have created a ‘truth window’ in one of the walls, where people can look in and see the structure that lies within.

The fine clay finish can be moulded into shapes.

There has been amazing community support with the project as a whole.  From supporting the process in school time and working one to one with the students, to working bees on weekends and in the holidays to get things done.  This has given the community the chance to learn and have ownership as well.





The whole garden taking form.

The new pizza oven created by the community.










The latest additions to the garden area are the creation of the adobe pizza oven and a reconditioned container decked out to be an outdoor kitchen.  The student-created design on the side of the pizza oven shows their connection to their local maunga/ mountain, Karangahake.

I asked year 6 student Shelby Forrester what she enjoyed most about the project.

“I really like all the nature that’s happened and I get to be outside heaps!” –  Shelby Forrester

Another student described how he loved the feeling of the clay on his bare feet.

Asha says the best part has been “getting dirty”, while another student said “It’s just real fun.”

2019 will see more development of the kitchen space and continued work on the adobe corners of the garden.  The students have now adapted their initial plan to make the last two corners into little huts … as they could see the potential for this once the structures took form.

Harvesting bamboo.

Trimming the bamboo.








Testing adobe recipes.

Applying adobe mix to the wall.








The beginning of this story about the design criteria is told here.

Banner image: The whole garden takes shape.