The Enviroschools Foundation is a not-for-profit trust that supports children to be active citizens, contributing to ecological regeneration and the creation of healthy, resilient and sustainable communities.

Throughout New Zealand, over 860 early childhood education centres and schools are taking action to make positive environmental changes. Children plan, design and implement sustainable projects and become catalysts for change in their families and the wider community.

Recently, I went to visit the Kai in Communities Food Garden project in three Waikato ‘Enviroschools’ and was completely blown away by the outstanding environmental projects and production of kai (food) the children are driving. It was a truly inspiring day. The student’s knowledge, leadership and energy was so impressive – so too was the commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers and principals.

It was very clear from my visit that the Enviroschools programme gives children an opportunity to apply their energy and ideas to improve the physical and social environment at home/school, our community and our world.  The children demonstrated a real connection with nature and a sense of belonging to the environment and community.

What really struck me was how engaged the children were and their extensive knowledge (far greater than mine!) on sustainable living, growing plants and food, on wormeries and composting, storm water and rain water collection, looking after beehives and eco-buildings….the list goes on.

The first school I visited was Tauwhare Primary School, a rural primary school not far from Hamilton, Cambridge and Morrinsville. The children from the Enviro Group were eager to present their work and share the creativity and planning that went in to develop their edible garden and orchard. The garden was full of broccoli, rhubarb, fruit trees, herbs etc.

The children talked about the seed bank they have established to trade seeds at school and within the local community, and the tool collection programme they have introduced to increase the number and variety of tools in their shed.

One group spoke passionately about the Tauwhare Trading Post – a system they’ve established to trade vegetables and fruit with the local community. The kids supply fruit, vegetables and herbs from their own school garden and anyone in the community can help themselves, provided they donate something from their own garden in return.

The students were keen to establish how sustainable their community was, so they surveyed the locals to find out how many families had a garden, what kinds of plants/food they grow and what they do with the excess fruit and vegetables. They found that everyone had a garden and many people liked the idea of developing a community garden. The children wrote to the Community Planning Committee and it is considering the idea.

The local Waimakariri Marae, where about a third of the school children live, is also seeking to develop their food growing capacity and the students are keen to help.

I was particularly impressed with the quality of the science the children did when helping a local farmer improve river water quality. Not only did they assist with riparian planting, but they tested the results and presented their findings to NIWA and the Rivers and Us conference in Adelaide. This real life learning is really awesome.

The Tindall Foundation has supported and encouraged The Enviroschools Foundation in various ways for over 10 years, but we sought a specific application from the organisation to assist schools and communities to produce the most abundant edible gardens possible. We wanted to revive a range of effective food growing practices. Food gardens include fruit tree orchards, seeding nurseries, food preparation and consumption.

In my next installment, I will focus on two other extraordinary Enviroschools – Goodwood and Hukanui Primary Schools.