Green thumbs

16:00, Oct 26 2012
Melody Johnston
Green fingers: Year one pupils, from left, Melody Johnston, 5, Hannah Williams, 6, and Jaxson Dinmore, 6, are among the youngest members of the Riverlands School garden team

Today and Beyond is the title of Riverlands School's environmental programme, and a vegetable garden in a corner of the playground provides hands-on lessons.

Work done today brings rewards in a few weeks' or months' time, children learn.

Weeks and months can be a long time-span for 5 and 6-year-olds, but a class of year 1 pupils talk confidently this week about the produce they expect to harvest from the school garden.

Many already help in their families' gardens at home and understand how seeds and young plants grow into bigger plants or trees to produce vegetables and fruits for eating.

Riverlands is one of about 20 schools signed up to the Marlborough District Council Kids Edible Garden Programme.

Each school receives funds for a gardens facilitator, who will work at the school two hours a week for an eight-week term.


Teacher aide Joanna Hepburn doubles as the garden facilitator at Riverlands and sees some children with more instinctive "garden nous" than others.

Hands-on tasks like sowing seeds, watering plants and clearing away unwanted weeds can be especially enjoyable for children whose first instincts are not to sit at a desk inside the classroom, Joanna says.

Riverlands School laid its first vegetable garden in 2003. Since then, the grounds have been extended to include part of a neighbouring property. Fruit trees were retained and new ones added to create a school orchard. "We have a harvest festival celebration every year, and we make apple crumble and other things with our produce," Joanna says.

Stalls are occasionally set up, too. Usually produce is swapped for a donation, but on a couple of occasions, enterprising "little businessmen" have put prices on the produce for sale.

Classes have one formal session a week in the garden and pupils can volunteer their labour during lunch breaks.

There is always supervision, but a peek into the garden shed reveals the children are encouraged to take their garden duties seriously.

Walls are lined with rakes, spades, and trowels, wheelbarrows are propped up on the floor, and containers on shelves have been carefully labelled.

The Marlborough Express