Huntly early learning centre builds kai garden for their tamariki

Bizzy Bodz Early Learning Centre in Huntly, Waikato recently completed a new edible kai garden as one of ten winners in this year’s inaugural Keep New Zealand Beautiful Kai Garden Competition.

The competition gives schools and ECEs from across the country the opportunity to create a small kai (edible) or rongoā (traditional Māori medicinal) garden to help their students develop a greater understanding of the natural world and to gain hands-on experience gardening for their school.

A section of vacant space near the rear of the centre was utilised to create the garden, the design of which is centred around the ECE’s curriculum.

“Our children were given the opportunity to tell us what they like eating and what they wanted to grow, and we designed our garden around their suggestions,” said Gina Prendergast, Centre Manager. “We also brainstormed ways to reduce, re-use, and recycle and how this could be incorporated into the building of our garden space as well as the ongoing maintenance and ways to safely utilise the space as an outdoor learning area for our tamariki.”

Plants to appeal to the senses
Each and every plant has been selected to aid children’s learning, including planting sensory plants to aid autistic children in experiencing and understanding the different senses, and for those children who learn through sensory experiences. These include Marigolds (brightly coloured edible flowers); Lamb’s Ear (with velvety leaves and fuzzy flowers for sight/touch); Lemon Balm (the crushed leaves of which provide a great smell and taste); and Bergenia (a flower with leaves that squeak when rubbed together).

“Providing the opportunity for our tamariki to learn about where their food comes from, planting the seeds, caring for our gardens and harvesting kai will encourage our tamariki to enjoy healthy food choices. The garden is an alternative way of learning providing an outdoor classroom for hands on learning.”

“As a Centre, our goal is to move towards sustainable practices, choosing resources made of natural materials as much as possible and educating tamariki on how we care for our environment. This is deeply connected to our philosophy of manaakitanga not only for people but for the world around us.”

2022 was the first year of the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Kai Garden Competition, and over 80 design submissions were made. The competition aimed to benefit students through academic achievement, healthy eating concepts, environmental kaitiakitanga, and building a connection with nature and cultural roots. Ten winning schools were selected to each receive $1,000 to put towards building a garden that beautifies and enhances their grounds, with a further $500 for gardens completed by the end of Term 4 to put towards its ongoing care.

“Growing our own kai supports our whanau well-being,” says Ms. Prendergast. “The children have been harvesting and preparing the food ready to eat. Health and nutrition will be discussed during these sessions and the children are developing fine motor skills, patience, confidence, hand-eye coordination and responsibility, as well as getting some physical exercise and learning life skills.”

More info about our Kai Garden Competition can be found here.

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