At Hillpark Kindergarten we always wanted to build a sustainable community garden where tamariki can grow their choice of plants, learn the importance of, and develop skills for, growing food and know that food grows in the kiwi backyards, not in the supermarkets. We also wanted our whānau to participate in learning and working alongside us, which means free access to our garden. Our community is multicultural, so we have the advantage of learning about and celebrating the diversity of cultures through this mahi tahi of growing a sustainable garden.
At the beginning of this year, we had a project on relationships with rākau. This has inspired us to plant mānuka, puarangi (NZ hibiscus), kānuka, ngutu kākā (beak), and pohutukawa. We have planted their seeds alongside existing kōwhai, harakeke and kawakawa plants. This initiative has not only added native rākau to our kindergarten environment but will attract native birds and beneficial insects to our garden.
We have grown mint, spearmint, parsley and kawakawa in our kindergarten in the past and tamariki have enjoyed the fragrance of these herbs and we knew these would make terrific first plants to care for.
Taking into account the different cultures in our community, our herb garden now includes sage, basil, parsley, coriander, thyme and oregano.
Receiving Earthwise funding has meant that we could expand our food growing opportunities and ensure there was water available to sustain them. We consulted and sought advice from our culturally diverse whānau and community (Whenua warrior, local businesses) our enthusiastic team and ngā tamariki. This helped us decide on a selection of plants and a water tank for our project. Our tamariki were empowered to choose the site and plants to grow the garden.
We had some seeds (beans, peas, pumpkin, sunflowers) from last year. Tamariki had an opportunity to grow their own seedlings and planted them in the soil. We planted a few in the kindergarten garden and others were taken home to grow – a great thing to observe and talk about over lockdowns.
Due to Covid 19, we couldn’t pursue the project as planned, however we adapted, continued and provided regular updates of the developments to tamariki and whānau. We kaiako worked together to look for a sustainable approach for buying that didn’t cost much money and helped 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 rainwater harvesting tank for our kindergarten. This shows our simple and worthy approach to sustainable living. Everyone was very supportive and excited about the water tank installation.
Tamariki in our bubble have helped us to assemble the garden, transporting bags of compost, planting herbs and seeds, and watering from our newly installed and full water tank!
As the weather has got warmer, some plants are already flowering, and we have observed tūī, kererū, insects and worms joining us in our safe bubble. We are regularly having conversations with our tamariki about rākau we have seen on our weekly Ngahere hikoi and the ones we are planting in our environment.
Our tamariki are learning about growing beans, peas, tomatoes, flowers and herbs and knowing that we can use most of these in cooking our dinner. We have been 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.
We extend conversations by looking at the worms while digging and the important role they have in breaking down 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.
This project has helped stimulate thinking, exploring, learning and being kind to the environment. The tamariki feel they are valued because they are empowered to learn new things, ask questions, and contribute to sustainable living.
This whole mahi tahi/ working together, growing a sustainable garden has helped connect us as one whānau.
We want to conserve wai/ water so we can use it wisely, especially in the summer months when its scarcity rises in Tāmaki Makaurau.