Sowing seeds, reaping knowledge

Issue: Volume 97, Number 7

Posted: 30 April 2018
Reference #: 1H9iXG

The Edible Garden Competition aims to encourage curriculum-based learning by letting students get their hands dirty.

Geraldine Primary School had been working towards teaching its students about gardening for quite some time before it won Soil, Food and Society’s Edible Garden Competition earlier this month.

The South Canterbury Enviroschool planted a vegetable garden in 2015 and a fruit orchard in 2016. Now, with their $500 prize from the Edible Garden Competition, they plan to add a ‘sensory garden’ to the plot.

Junior school teacher and head of Enviroschools at Geraldine Primary School Erin Barclay says the sensory garden was the brainchild of students in the school’s ‘Green Team’.

“We’re an Enviroschool and we’re just starting our enviro-journey. We were getting the children’s ideas for things and last year some of the children who were in our Green Team came up with the idea of more colourful, nice-smelling flowers, that sort of thing, and they thought it would be a good thing beside the junior block,” she says.

“The garden is supposed to be a sensory garden, so not solely edible. Mainly it’s going to focus on the senses of sight, smell and taste, so we’re trying to get the money together to plant different things like lavender and herbs in one section, possibly a fruit tree.”

Building had already begun on the sensory garden prior to the competition, but the extra money would be used to purchase plants.

“Once it’s done it’ll be the Green Team, which is children from every class, including the juniors, helping with it, as well as some of the junior children helping when we get a chance to go out and put strawberries and things like that in,” Erin says.

Keeping rewards

“One of our goals is to really get the children to have the rewards from it, so we’ve been planting things that come through when they’re at school, because it’s hard in the holidays when they’re often away. We did pumpkin soup last year that we shared around the whole school for anyone who wanted it. That was a massive slow cooker kind of job.

“They pick the snow/snap peas and eat them as they are; same with the grapes and apples. The children take them off themselves.
We just had a rule that they had to be gentle with the trees and things and only take one in a lunchtime.”

The competition was run with support from the Sustainable Farming Fund, established by the Ministry for Primary Industries and a group of industry partners.

Project Manager Ralph Springett of ReGear Learning, the company working on the project with Soil, Food and Society, says more than 300 entries were received and he is pleased with the uptake.

“What was also interesting was that so many schools had a proposal on their lips, so to speak; a lot of schools were ready to go with an idea.”

Soil, Food and Society resources

As well as this competition, the fund has also enabled Soil, Food and Society to create free educational resources for students in Years 5-8 around the science of food production. The resources aim to address any disconnect students may experience between the food they eat and the process of growing produce.

“The purpose of the resource is to take students from that understanding of the way nutrients are actually turned into food basically through plants, how we turn those resources like sunlight and nutrients into food, and then ask the question ‘so what now – what does that mean for New Zealand as a primary producer?’” says Ralph.

“It starts at a molecular level and talks about nutrients and photosynthesis and those sorts of things; it looks really strongly towards the science curriculum and the nature of science and connects a range of different parts of the curriculum from social studies through to biology. Towards the end, when it reaches Years 7 and 8 students, it starts to ask much more complicated questions.”

Students are involved in the planning process of designing a garden and need to make decisions on the purpose and servicing of their garden. The resource also includes independent learning material through which students are able to choose and run experiments using scientific methods.

At the end of the course, students are asked to provide recommendations to their whānau, school or even a local MP, based on their three years of study.

“They’re asked to provide advice around how we balance New Zealand’s role as a primary food producer with our need and want for a pure and clean environment. There’s no single answer to that, there’s only shades of grey.”

The resource can be reshaped depending on each school’s needs and has been created with Kiwi kids in mind.

“It is fully integrated with the curriculum and ideal for New Zealand’s situation. There really isn’t a cost here, but what is needed is perhaps a lead in a staff member and an interest from some students to look at the resource and to see what parts might work for them,” says Ralph.

“The benefits of learning and teaching it are quite significant. They’re benefits not only for the students but also for the community.”

To access Soil, Food and Society’s(external link) resources.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 30 April 2018

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