Kai Garden Competition

Our Kai Gardens Competition is a great way for tamariki aged 3-13 years to develop a greater understanding of the natural world and to gain hands-on experience building a small kai or rongoā garden for their school.

Kai Gardens is a fun and educational competition that is open to all New Zealand ECEs, kindergartens, primary and intermediate schools. Students are given the opportunity to collaborate and design a garden that features edible and/or medicinal plants, and which is constructed using sustainable and reclaimed materials.

This is a great way for tamariki to learn how easy it is to reduce their environmental footprint by growing their own food, cooking seasonally and composting food and garden waste.

Once established, students are encouraged to share their learnings and achievements by harvesting, preparing and sharing the produce from their garden with the wider school community and their whānau.

The garden can be any shape and be situated anywhere in the school — indoors or outdoors. It can be a new garden, or an enhancement to an old one; an individual class project or one the whole school contributes to.

Ten winning schools will each receive $500 to put towards building and planting a garden, with a further $500 on completion to put towards its ongoing care.

Entries for this year’s competition are now closed. The winners will be announced on Tuesday 27 June 2023.

Check out this example of a Kai Garden Competition 2022 winning submission.

New Kai Garden Classroom Activity Resources for teachers

This year we’re excited to be able to offer schools and teachers who register for the Kai Garden Competition access to our NEW Kai Garden lesson plans, classroom resources and curriculum links. 

These lessons have been designed to turn your Kai Garden design project into a full unit of work, without any extra lesson planning required by you!

As a full until of work, the plans and competition provide young people with a deeper understanding of:

  • Why it is good for both them and the planet to plant a Kai Garden.
  • What they need to know and understand to create a Kai Garden.
  • Changes they can make at home to ensure a more sustainable future for our planet.

The lessons suit students 5–13-years-old and can be adapted to suit a range of year levels and abilities.

The six lessons create a full unit of work, however they are also designed to be used as singular lessons, so you can pick and choose which are most appropriate to facilitate with your students. The lessons all have accompanying  PowerPoint slides and there is a handy teacher’s guide to let you know what each lesson entails and what resources you will need. 

Access the Kai Garden lesson plans, classroom resources and curriculum links here. 

Reasons to get involved:

As well as getting a nutritious garden from which to harvest, students will also benefit through:

  • Academic achievement. A school garden provides hands-on learning across many academic subjects.
  • Health and well-being. The pride and curiosity sparked by building a healthy edible garden can serve students the rest of their lives.
  • Environmental kaitiakitanga. Students become responsible caretakers, exploring stewardship and a circular economy, and establishing a connection with nature.
  • Cultural connection. Students learn about the beliefs and customs of other cultures, and can connect with whānau and the community through gardening, harvesting and sharing their produce.

Congratulations to our Kai Garden Competition 2023 winners

Best Start Puketaha, Waikato
Garden project: Memory Māra Kai

“This will be an enhancement to an existing garden located in the preschoool’s playground, just outside the classroom and deck area.

“Our Memory Māra Kai (vegetable garden) is a space that reflects the research, ideas and values that our tamariki have invested in its planning. It supports our centre’s curriculum of ‘where life grows’, where tamariki are supported and encouraged to be kaitiaki (guardians) of the world around them. The concepts of the garden reflect Te Whare Tapa Wha (the four pillars of health).

“We propose to grow many herbs in pots along the sensory path and edible flowers that are safe for play and taste. The garden bed will be reserved for plants that need a bigger space for growing, such as broccoli, beetroot, cauliflower and spinach, brussell sprouts, cabbage and radish in the winter. The summer will include carrots, corn, peas, beans, and sunflower. We plan to plant the trailing plants towards the edges of the garden so that they can sprawl – such as zucchini, pumpkin and watermelon.

“We are fortunate to have a pātaka kai (food pantry) for our Whānau and local community to exchange produce, and we would love to add more from our Memory Māra Kai to share the aroha and commitment our tamariki have put into the growing, maintenance and harvesting of ngā huarakau me ngāhuawhenua (fruits and vegetables).”

Bankwood School Enviro Agents, Hamilton
Garden project: Marā Rongoā

“This will be enhancement to our existing vegetable garden as we aim to build upon our roles of Kaitiaki in our kura.

“This year we have begun the Enviro School journey and have deepened our commitment to be Kaitiaki, looking after our precious Papatuanuku, and developing our school curriculum, learning through a Māori lens. We have been working in partnership with Ngati Wairere and the Kūkūtahere Gully Project at Fairfield College (on our school’s backdoor), to learn about our local historical stories. Our Kai Garden development will help us put into practice what we have been learning about. Along with this powerful and meaningful learning, we want to further develop our green footprint – strengthen our cycle of sustainability, working on our challenge- wero for zero waste, compositing our fruit in school waste and developing our ‘Garden to Table’ programme. The Kai Garden will help us learn how we can create, nurture and produce food and products to benefit ourselves, our whānau and community, with a background understanding of our historical stories. This marā will be a special space for all of our community.”

Inglewood Primary School, New Plymouth
Garden project: IPS Food Forest

“This will be a new project located outside bordering the back field. We would like to learn how to create and uphold a sustainable food forest where we can reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. Our purpose for this project is to be able to provide healthy food for those who may need some kai within our school and wider community. It will be a place to learn, reflect, calm/self and co-regulate and pay it forward. Our end goal is that we will be able to propagate, grow, nurture, harvest and gift or sell our fruit and vegetables to the community. For those who are able to pay we would as for a donation to help with any running costs.

“We will use donated and repurposed materials and plant fruit such as lemon, mandarin, tangelo, lim, grapefruit and feijoa, and vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas and spinach; and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, lavender and chives.”

Oromahoe Kindergarten,Haruru
Garden project: Koru Connection / Whanaungatanga Koru

“This will be an enhancement to an existing garden and will feature three koru spirals which represent the interconnectedness of all of us.

“We have our three koru spirals connecting as part of our kai garden design. Our existing beautiful rimu koru bench in the centre of our garden, beneath our weeping ornamental cherry tree, is a place of peace and tranquillity where our children can play or just sit and relax. Then our large tiered spiral herb garden filled with a range of medicinal and edible herbs will be constructed using the same lava stones and rocks as our current little patch. The smells and textures will be an incredibly sensory experience for the children. We also wanted to add an interactive water element to our garden, which will be another sensory experience for the children. As well as the connected spiral elements we want this kai garden to be functional and sustainable and have the potential to feed our children and our community. We want our communities to have an accessible, affordable and safe food supply for current and future generations and to feel secure in knowing that their children are receiving healthy kai straight from the garden. Our overall health and well-being as a community will be nourished with increased food and availability and promotion of the knowledge we receive from creating and looking after a kai garden – ‘Abundant whenua, prosperous whanau'”.

Pakowhai School, Hastings
Garden project: Our Maara Kai …. where children and plants grow together

“This will be an enhancement to a garden located outside near the entrance to the school and down the side of one of the classrooms

“Pakowhai has two meanings – Pa Kowhai which means the place where there is an abundance of Kowhai’s or Pako Whai which means to look/glean for food. There is a story about gleaning for Kumara’s in Pakowhai and so we plan to plant Kumara as part of our garden. Pakowhai was also the first area to have grapes planted which went on to become the Mission Winery many years later.

“We have a mural at our school which shows some of this history of our area and we want to honour our history and meaning of our area and name of our school by planting some of the things that relate to this – Kumara, Grapes, Kowhai Tree.

“We want to create a kai and rongoa garden that gives opportunities for our Pakowhai children to learn and be involved in gardening and kai distribution (through a pataka kai outside the school for our whanau and the Pakowhai community), for children to have the opportunity to eat a variety of foods from the garden including some they may not otherwise try and to take part in every aspect of gardening from planting to care to eating and gaining a sense of achievement and pride as the garden produces, also learning how those plants can be used medicinally and therefore learning more about Maori culture.”

Pirpiri School, Te Kuiti
Garden project: Piripiri P.R.I.D.E Garden Taken from our school values of Positive participation, Respect, Inspire and Inquire, Determination and Excellence.

“This is an enhancement to an existing garden located close to the main building and terrace where we lunch outside adjacent to our covered play area and will provide a green and tasty link from this hub to our playground and beyond. Currently the area is underutilised and not a destination. We have an additional bed situated at the bottom of the playground which will be planted as well.

“We would like our ākonga to engage with this part of the school, to develop their sense of kaitiakitanga through care of their adopted tree and to build their knowledge so that they are capable and knowledgeable food growers for life.

“We want to develop a tranquil and uplifting space to journey through on the way to the playground or to stop a while for a weed or feed. Hard landscaping by laying steps and a pathway in woodchip will see it able to be used year round. The kai we produce will give us the opportunity to learn about food preparation and our aim is that students will be able to go home with a ready made delicious salad or veggies and fruit for the dinner table at home as well as supplementing lunches at school.”

Scallywaggs Kinikātene, Waipawa
Garden project: Māra Rongoa

“This will be a new garden project located in the main play space and will replace a lawn area.

“At Waipawa Kinikātene, we are fortunate enough to already have an established māra kai and an area for native plants, specifically taller or bigger plants like mānuka, kowhai and kawakawa. Our goal was to create a more accessible māra rongoa for our tamariki, one that they could use throughout their day and to learn from in a meaningful way, specific to their daily experiences, drawing from and complementing our existing māra. Extra care and attention has been taken when planning our layout and choosing plants to ensure they are safe for tamariki.”

St Teresa’s School, Bluff
Garden project: Operation Spring!

“This will be an enhancement to a garden situated in a corner of the school field.

“Our garden has been established for a few years but is looking jaded. After studying Rongoa Māori, the students would love to plant some Kawa Kawa, manuka and Koromiko. As part of the regeneration of the garden space, the students would like to put a gutter on the hen house to collect the rain water and have it run into a water tank. The students would like to add a designated are in the garden for bees and plant sunflowers all around the fences. Four of the garden beds would be for vegetables with one used for herbs and these crops would be rotated seasonally. The chickens would gain a dustbath and a chicken enrichment area.”

Te Aroha Noa Ece -Manawa Tamariki, Palmerston North
Garden project: Manawa Tamariki Garden

“This will be an enhancement to a garden located inside the playground which is open to our community.

“We’d like to revise our garden, reuse and create more wonder to our Tamariki’s learning environment. We aim to plant fruit trees, implement soil, compost and rainwater collection system. We will plant native grass and plants such as peas, carrots and beans, broccoli, lettuce, Kawakawa and hebes.”

Welcome Bay School, Tauranga
Garden project: Ngā Māhuri Garden

“This will be an enhancement to a garden and will be designed and planted by students in Year 2 and Year 3 in our learning hub called Ngā Māhuri.

“This previous garden has been neglected for the last few years and we wish to revitalise it and establish it as the heart of our school. The garden will be student lead – It’s not about them doing it perfectly the first time, it’s about learning how to do it better next time, and the fun that can be had along the way. The Ngā Māhuri students have had lots of fun planning sessions about what they would like in their garden, and they have designed a garden space which they feel strongly about.

“They had a brainstorming session to decide what was needed in the garden and then all the students drew a picture of what they wanted in the garden. These pictures were then placed on a photo of the garden space and the final design has been based around this. One of the key drivers for the students is “Nature”. Creating a garden where nature will return, be it native birds, insects, bugs or reptiles, they are wanting to create a diverse ecosystem, as well as a kai garden. The garden will be sustainable in that we will use our food waste from our school lunches to make our own compost; use our plant pruning’s to make our own mulch; use companion planting to avoid harmful chemicals and save our seeds to plant next year’s crops. The garden will create a habitat for local wildlife providing food and shelter for everything from small animals to essential pollinators and native birds.”