It’s a crisp May morning and the Year Three children at Papatoetoe West Primary school are buzzing to be outside. They’re about to kick off their all-time favourite subject at school – Garden to Table.
As the kids set off to harvest goodies and make patties, we caught up with their teacher Liesl and principal Diana to learn more about the programme, and how the kids are taking the lessons home.
“Without a doubt, this is the favourite class the kids do,” says Year Three teacher, Liesl Midgley. “And it’s popular among all the kids – it’s a great leveller because often the kids who are easily distracted in the classroom can be the best in the garden or the kitchen,” she adds.
The children in the garden start the lesson with a relay race where they are put into teams and when the teacher calls out the name of a vegetable such as curly kale or spinach they must run to a basket, identify and retrieve the relevant vegetable. The other half of the class are in the kitchen cooking – the menu today is broad bean patties and feijoa muffins.
“As a teacher I find the kids learn so much in these lessons that can be taken back to the classroom. We try to almost over-emphasise measurement in the kitchen and garden and this helps with subjects such as science or maths classes where they may be struggling with fractions for instance,” says Mrs Midgley.
Diana Tregoweth, Principal of Papatoetoe West School, is a huge supporter of Garden to Table (GTT). She originally introduced it to Owairaka District School where she was principal for 13 years and then put it in place at Papatoetoe West School when she moved there.
“I just love the kids learning about the whole process of food – growing, harvesting and cooking. It’s not just gardening or cooking but the children become involved in planning, planting, growing and nurturing the plants and then turning it into a healthy, delicious meal. And whereas so many children have only ever seen vegetables in a packet or tin, they see the peas in a pod for example.
GTT gives them so many more options in food choices and healthy eating. The children take the recipes home and share them. There are so many valuable lessons for the kids in this type of learning, including sharing and behaviour management, sustainability, nutrition and a sense of community” says Diana.
According to Diana, GTT supports the whole curriculum. “We know our children learn best when they are experiencing things. Garden to Table brings the curriculum alive! It’s an easy pathway to tie it into school learning and curriculum, so it’s not just hands on learning,” she says.
Diana’s passion for Garden to Table began back in 2003 when she was at Owairaka School and had gone through all the processes to become an Enviro School. “The parents were very keen on the kids learning about sustainability and after we achieved the top Enviro School award, we started to hear about Garden to Table which was then being piloted in three schools. We felt this should be our next step as we wanted more children to become involved in the garden and a more focussed programme,” she explains.
Soon after joining Papatoetoe West School Diana won the Woolf Fisher Scholarship and, knowing that her new school board and staff were very keen to introduce GTT, she spent time in Canada and England looking at schools that were doing similar programmes.
Garden to Table helped establish the programme at Papatoetoe West by organising a sponsor who then put in place a working bee. “I think it really helps if you have a couple of people within the school who are passionate about GTT. I have been fortunate here because all the staff involved love it,” says Diana. They are about to introduce chickens donated from a rescue and the kids will build the coop using recycled boxes. They are also planning to order a pizza oven.
Diana says the biggest challenge for schools wanting to establish GTT is in the set up but believes it’s much simpler now because GTT operates in around 45 schools and they run open days in which school staff can attend to get a full picture of what’s involved and the benefits. They also run specialist sessions where schools share information and ideas.
“The benefits to the kids and the school community are huge. The kids become very proud of their garden and the produce and this pride filters through to the families and wider community,” Diana explains.
Words by Philippa Harknett
Photography by Julz Glover
Garden to Table help kids build skills for life by learning how to to grow and cook their own food. Discover how your 1% can empower them to instill healthy eating habits in the next generation of young Kiwis.