Growing Together: A Cultural Bridge for International Students

January 31, 2024

International Students at Torbay School in Auckland participate in Garden to Table's food education programme.

With Aotearoa’s borders fully reopened, Torbay School on Auckland’s North Shore has been able to welcome international students again. Our partner charity, Garden to Table, has served as a bridge to welcome new students and families, to help children understand New  Zealand culture, and to provide pathways towards self-sufficiency.

Garden to Table’s food education programme is sowing the seeds of change and growth in more ways than one at Torbay School. Many of the visiting international students have grown up in large cities. The sprawling gardens at Torbay School have offered their first encounter with the wonders of nature.

Garden to Table’s food education programme takes learning out of the classroom and into the garden and kitchen. These international students have the opportunity to embark on the full journey of growing their own fresh produce from seed to harvest. This has had a unique impact on their lives. 

Garden to Table students learn to nurture plants, harvest kai, experience a hands-on exploration of textures and flavours, develop kitchen safety, and practice experiential problem-solving. Through it all, Torbay School’s international students also have an opportunity to practice English skills and understand the multicultural flavours and customs of their new home. 

These impacts radiate far beyond the activities of the garden and kitchen. For Torbay’s Deputy Principal, Susan, a  recent highlight has been enabling students to experience art in a new way. Recently, they decorated pots together.  

Torbay School international students proudly display their decorated plant pots.

“For many of these students, art has been quite structured. They haven't experienced painting on different elements.  So, we painted pots together – looking at different designs, following the process of sketching. They used the pots to grow sunflowers at school. They got to take the pots home afterwards”. 

A recent trip to see sheep and pigs was another highlight. During their visit, the students learnt about, and discussed, the vital role that animals play in food cycles and the environment, emphasising that our planet is the shared home of humans and animals. “They gained a deeper appreciation of why it’s important to minimise food waste”, Susan says. 

Teamwork is an integral part of any Garden to Table programme. For Torbay School’s international students, the opportunity to enhance social skills through their programme has helped them adapt to a new environment and culture.  

“They come in not knowing each other, and learn to take turns, work as a team, collaborate, and problem solve”, Susan says. 

“This really transfers into the classroom”, Susan adds, noting how teachers have observed a tangible difference in the way students navigate the classroom, work collaboratively, and tackle challenges.  

Torbay School’s story shows that coming together through growing, cooking and sharing kai is a natural, joyful and powerful connector for people across cultures, ethnicities, and languages. Their experiences demonstrate how students benefit from a learning approach where tamariki are doing things for themselves and learning in a real-world setting. 

He kai kei aku ringa. There is food in my hands.

Words and images supplied by Garden to Table.

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Fund 10 children to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh produce from their school garden for a whole school year with just 1% of your annual income. For the average Kiwi, that's only $10 per week. Support Garden to Table with your 1%.

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