Fertile Grounds of a Secondary School Grow Intergenerational Conversations about Food Production and Action

| By Palmerston North Girls’ High School Sustainability Coordinators Dr Heather Meikle and Mrs Jenny Slade

Rongomātāne has associations with garden crops and has qualities of peacefulness, order, provision and cultivation.

Since the receipt of the grant from the Enviroschools’ action fund, the revamp of the Hort Area has proceeded at pace. The first part of the action plan was to form a team that could help with the revamp of the area. The key driver for progress in Phase 1 was the sustainability group who made an action list and allocated tasks to different people. Sustainability now extends across the school involving a range of people, departments, tauira and whānau.

Phase 1 of the long-term project has been a collaborative student/staff effort that involved fundraising in 2018/2019 – through catering for a regional GATE conference, the Enviroschools’ grant, gaining funds from the Palmerston North Girls’ High School (PNGHS) Board of Trustees and PTA and plant/food sales. The Enviro Group also visited Manchester School – a Green-Gold Enviroschool, to learn about their practices and how these were maintained.

Students use produce from the gardens to create nutritious meals

In Term 1 2019 the Hort area was planted with vegetables and the produce used by students in the the Applied Consumer Technology Department. Next, the Hort area was cleared and the glasshouse and the tunnel house, decommissioned. The frames remained but coatings were removed.

The old glasshouse and tunnel house are decommissioned and the new glasshouse installed.

In Term 2 a new fence was built around the expanded Hort area and the new glasshouse was installed. Alumni who had helped to fundraise for the glasshouse returned to see its successful installation.

In August (Term 3), the new PNGHS orchard was planted by tauira, whānau and staff. The orchard includes heritage apples, pears, feijoas, plums and citrus. New student Enviro Group leaders Micah and Sarah were appointed, and they began to rally the students to action.


Term 4 saw the weather improve and a row of olives was planted. Their Kaumātua, Wiremu Te Awe Awe, and Executive prefect, Salma Abdulla, led the olive planting to remember the Christchurch attack and to honour the increasing number of Muslim students in their community. Mrs Biggs, the recently retired principal, planted a persimmon.

Recently, vege pods have been installed, two new composters constructed, fences painted and trellised, murals are being designed, raised beds are under way.

The Applied Consumer Technology Department is also introducing a new food waste management system in the Food Technology rooms with the new composters forming a key part of this scheme. Our vision is to expand composting within this Department and across the school, in the coming years.

It is hoped that Phase 1 will be celebrated with planting and harvesting in early 2020. The growing and use of the produce is being integrated into the Food Technology curriculum and Extension programme.

Alumni came to help paint the Hort area fence.



The glasshouse was used as a Pop up cafe by the Food Technology students.


With the revamp, a new community has developed, with increased interest in plants and how the Sustainability area can be used as a resource across a range of learning areas. Students have learned to plant trees and they take pride in these, checking on their health and fruitfulness. Conversations about sustainability, food production and next steps happen daily. Relationships have formed that enhance hauora and are intergenerational. Phase 1 has sparked joy. ‘It takes a team to make a dream’.

We appreciate the support of all involved especially the mentoring from Georgina Morrison, Palmerston North Enviroschools Facilitator and Sarah Williams, Enviroschools Regional Coordinator.

Banner Photo: Students from PNGHS check out their food gardens after the summer break.