The not-so-secret garden

Te Aro School is about as vibrant and bustling a learning environment as any kid could hope for. Hidden away at the south end of The Terrace, Te Aro is overseen by its remarkable principal, Sue Clement, and teaches children from over forty nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Te Aro is one of six Wellington schools engaged in the Garden to Table program.

Although only in its first year at the school, the Garden to Table program has been an enormous success. We spent a wonderful morning chatting to the kids of Te Aro to see how they felt about being part of Garden to Table. The results were unanimously positive. The gardening group took us around the school, pointing out their favourite plants and vegetables with an undeniable enthusiasm.

“My favourite thing to plant are the rainbow radishes,” said Sterling. “They taste so peppery.” We all tried one and agreed that they were both peppery and delicious. Sterling also told us that he loved learning to garden so that one day, he wouldn’t have to go to the supermarket to buy food. Manuail told us that he had memorised what all the plants in the garden looked like, so that he knew how to look after each of them. “My favourites are the snow peas,” he added resolutely.

Eru told us that he liked the Garden to Table program because he got to learn new things every day. “Today,” He told us, “I learnt that our hands are acidic to worms.” Jamie told us that she liked coming to school to check on the potatoes. “It makes a big difference when you care for them properly,” she said, showing us the methods she had learnt. Saffanah was also a fan of the potatoes, and had even written a song about them, called ‘Shine Bright like a Potato.’ She sang us the first verse and everybody clapped.

After this, we moved inside to visit the cooking group. Here, kids sat contentedly around a table, making an enormous batch of orange and carrot muffins. This was their fourth venture into the kitchen and they seemed to be loving every minute of it.

Zach told us about making pizzas the week before. “I designed a pizza with feta and colby cheese, basil and mushrooms. It was really tasty.” Fanfei, recently arrived from China, was very happy to involved. “We would never get to do this at school back in China,” he told us with a smile before he went back to his chopping board.

The cooking group has already made food from a number of different cultures. As well as the pizza, they had made a Vietnamese coleslaw with mint and chilli, which they assured us was delicious. All the recipes are vegetable-based and are shared with the rest of the students from the participating classes later in the afternoon.

After this, we checked out the beehives. Yes, Te Aro Primary School has beehives and once again, the kids are incredibly engaged with the project. I was astonished to see a bunch of tiny beekeepers lifting out the comb, checking on the bees and spouting knowledge that would have impressed even the most dedicated of beekeepers. Principal Sue assured me that, so far, no one has been stung.

It was a truly remarkable thing to see kids so involved in such a worthwhile pursuit. The first year of Garden to Table at Te Aro has been a big hit. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens next.

Words by Telford Mills. Photography by Pat Shepherd. Thank you to Sue from Te Aro School and Victoria from Garden to Table for hosting us :)

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