Te Atatū school plants traditional Māori medicinal garden

Matipo Primary School on the Te Atatū Peninsula, Auckland recently completed a new edible and medicinal garden for their students, as one of ten winners in this year’s inaugural Kai Garden Competition.

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

The garden is located centrally within the primary school and was designed to include traditional Māori medicinal plants, or Rongoa, as much as possible, such as horopito, houhere, manuka, kawakawa and kakahu. “Our Māra Rongoa was designed by the year 5 and 6 students of our Māori enrichment unit, Te Puawaitanga o te Wairua as a science and cultural study of our traditional Māori plants and their various uses (especially medicinal),” says Hollie Colegate, a specialist garden-to-table teacher at the school.

“The native medicinal plants we have chosen can treat cuts, burns, upset tummies, diarrhoea, head aches and tooth aches, grazes and sores and chapped skin. We have also planned to plant harakeke and kakaha for weaving.”

The students were also keen to create a new quiet reflective garden space, “where they could relax near their turangawaewae where the unit was housed.” Native harakeke has also been planted to help provide some sheltered space, and seats installed.

A lot of research and design work went into the garden, including consulting local tangata whenua and Rongoa experts, as well as specialist landscapers and builders. Once the design was finalised, students then also helped to choose and order the plants. Using reclaimed materials such as recycled cardboard to suppress weeds, and upcycled pavers, the garden was also installed with drip irrigation to ensure it continues to flourish over summer.

“We are so proud of the tamariki’s mahi, their kaitiakitanga and the fantastic garden they have created which will be a centrepiece for our school and Te Puawaitanga for years to come.”

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

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