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School's new garden is good medicine

INDIA HENDRIKSE
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Kathi Johnson
GOOD KAI: Kathi Johnson takes her class to Hillpark School’s vegetable gardens every day and is proud that all the produce is completely organic.

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A Maori medicinal garden will help schoolchildren get in touch with their roots.

Hillpark School in Manurewa plans to add the garden to its vegetable patches and orchards to promote healthy, sustainable living.

Teacher Kathi Johnson says the school is not sure what plants and herbs will be included in the garden but local iwi are helping.

Students take a hands-on role in planting and picking in the existing gardens and will help with the medicinal garden in future, she says.

"We have come up with the concept and really got our heart into the project. Every classroom has their own area in the garden to look after."

The idea for the medicinal garden was inspired by the school's appreciation of its surroundings of native bush, Ms Johnson says.

"We've always enjoyed the beautiful geographic area we live in, which helps us want to enhance it.

"It also goes the opposite way too, because what we're creating in the garden enhances the beauty of the area around us too."

Ms Johnson believes in the importance of giving Maori children a voice and something unique to share.

Hillpark is a decile 6 school and has a Maori population of almost 25 per cent, the Education Review Office says.

The garden project is funded by $10,000 from Auckland Council's Environmental Initiatives Fund. It provides money for projects that promote and enhance the environment and support heritage.

Manurewa Local Board member Danella McCormick says Hillpark was chosen because of its passion for the environment and hopes its success will encourage other schools to apply for funding.

Hillpark is also hoping to build a water harvesting tank, a greenhouse and a worm farm and is now looking for more funding through the Telecom Foundation's website givealittle. Go to givealittle.co.nz and search Hillpark School to donate.

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- Manukau Courier

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