How Does Your Garden Grow ?
Good children eat up all their vegetables.
Very good children grow, cook and dish them up for lunch, giving a fresh taste to education at East Tamaki Primary School, Otara - as brethren of Lodge Auckland 87 discovered recently.
They had no sooner presented a cheque to trustees of the school's Garden To Table scheme, than they were sitting down to the following menu: "Salad of your imagination (carrots, spinach. silver beet, fettuccini); crisp vegetable bundles wrapped in noodles; cheese scones."
When they first heard about the programme, the lodge members dug into their benevolent fund to donate gardening tools - for nourishment and growth, as befits Masonic benevolence. A subsidy from the Freemasons Charity was then sought in order to give further help, and RWBro Reid Polkinghorne led brethren in the handover of a cheque for some $3000 mainly for the supply of special work tables.
About 100 pupils aged nine and 10 get their turn to plant and tend the garden, collect prepare and cook under supervision and serve the food in this decile one Otara school, and "they are really keen to take part" says the principal Sarah Mirams. They radiate enjoyment, and would do it every day if they could.
The school roll of 282 is 75% Pacific and 25% Maori, with no pupil claiming European origin. It is the first of three Auckland schools to try the scheme which follows an Australian model and is administered by a local trust, the other schools at Te Atatu and Meadowbank being rated decile five and ten.
Vegetable-growing at school seems on the increase, its success at Edmund Hillary School, Papakura being seen on TV a while back. But there are special features to the Garden To Table version at Otara. Four classes from years five and six are involved, each getting a turn once a fortnight, and the kitchen sessions under adult volunteers produce, typically, such novelties as beetroot muffins and pumpkin griddle cakes.
Principal Ms Mirams says the programme imparts a whole range of social skills including proper vocabulary and table procedures from grace in Maori or a Pacific language through to washing up. And the children take these skills home with them.
East Tamaki Primary has a tidy, well-kept appearance which owes a lot to vegetable garden plots in raised beds forming an irregular jigsaw in otherwise unused space. The gardening project evolved from a 2005 makeover of the school grounds. Two landscapers involved then, Robin Barclay and Glenys Yeoman, now play a leading part in the garden operation.