Hooligans damaging a number of fruit trees at Montessori pre-school has led to a loss of innocence for a group of children aged between 3 and 6.
The Founders Heritage Park-based pre-school staff were shocked to find their beloved children's garden had been extensively damaged over the weekend.
Outdoor teacher Kirsa Rhone said it was a tragic thing to experience and it took her a day before she had the heart to break it to the group of 50 youngsters.
People would occasionally run amok in the play area as it was so close to Founders, but she had never witnessed any damage of this magnitude, she said.
The vandals had broken and killed six of the 12 trees in the garden, plucked off all of the fruit available and damaged the children's cubbyholes, she said.
"I feel just so heartbroken. I just do not see how people could do something like this." The children failed to understand why the vandals would "kill their friends", she said.
"Their mouths were agape when I told them. You could see them finding it hard to register the fact people might be different to them.
"You could see a little loss of innocence," Rhone said. "Children can be very resilient, but it was a big shock for them."
The children had spent all year cultivating the orchard that grew olives, figs, feijoas and bananas.
It had begun when parents started donating fruit trees to say thank you to the school once their children left.
It had become quite the tradition, she said.
The children were always very engaged in the process of gardening as a result.
They would dig little holes and unload the trees with their little child-size wagons and wheelbarrows, she said.
The children would refer to the planting process as "tucking the trees in".
The school fostered the idea of being a global citizen and having that connection between people and the environment.
Rhone planned to take pictures of the damaged garden and inform Founders Heritage Park management before taking the matter any further.
Nevertheless she was sure the Montessori whanau would take this blow in their stride and create a new garden.
- The Nelson Mail