The role of kaitiaki of our beautiful Earth, city of Whangārei, community and patch of grass here at Mairtown Kindergarten is taken very seriously by our tamariki. The moment we felt the warm sun on our faces we knew it was time to give back to papatūānuku after a long period of rest. But what were we to give? Food, drink and aroha just as we give ourselves.
I began by sitting with the tamariki as we talked about what our Māra kai/ Veggie garden needed to be replenished. Sheep poo. “Eeeeewwwwwwwww” was the most common reaction I received. I talked about the essential nutrients manure contains for amazing plant growth and how these nutrients help plants to grow strong roots, defend against pests and grow into beautiful and productive veggies! "It’s like you guys eating broccoli…" I said. They weren’t sold until I made it clear that we would not be eating the sheep poo.
The first step was to pull out the aloe vera plants that had taken over! We wrapped them up and gifted them to our whānau and what was left was planted around Kindergarten.
Once the sheep poo had been collected and bought back to Kindergarten, it was time to make soup!
Surprisingly I had more than enough volunteers to help me make the powerful green mixture. In it went into the māra kai, the tamariki rolled their sleeves up as we turned the soil ready for seedlings.
Before we planted any seeds we needed a warm environment for them to germinate in as it was still technically Winter! So we bought a greenhouse and set it up outside on the deck. It was very obvious that we were going to have a bit of trouble holding it down.
The junior engineers loved assembling it but it was the help and building skills of our lovely neighbour Frank that saved the day (and kept the greenhouse from blowing away!)
The green house was a popular meeting place. We all sat down and discussed which vegetables we wanted to plant.
Every type of seed the kids layed eyes on was planted. The kōrero had was wonderful. “How can the bean turn into a plant?” “What happens if we mix two seeds together?” “If the seed is planted the wrong way will the roots grow up?” “How does the plant crack out of the hard nut?” “If this seed is bigger will it be a bigger plant?” What a beautiful time to share knowledge with each other.
So our little barrel māra kai was ready for a few seedings but where were we going to plant the other 1000? There was no way around it, we had to make a new māra kai. Once the spot had been chosen it was time to dig.
Time for a drink and a break!
Wow, the tamariki moved over 1m square of wet bark in the rain, what champions! We started off with a crew of 4 and quickly grew in numbers and strength.
Ma tini ma mano ka rapa te whai.
Many hands make light work. Unity is strength.
The bark came out, and the rich soil went in and just like that we had created something truly beautiful to love, nurture, learn from, share and most importantly, something to nourish our bodies. The sense of pride I had in these tamariki was massive. The amount of effort, passion and plain hard mahi they put into this māra kai was heart warming and soon to be puku filling!
Our next challenge was The Daltons Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project which was designed to grow little gardeners through nurturing and caring for their own sunflowers.
We couldn’t believe how fast they grew! We talked lots about how tall they would be, as tall as Holly and her Dad we learnt!
We talked about what the beautiful flower heads would look like and the tamariki spent hours creating the most beautiful art.
When it was time to plant the seedlings most were sent home and the rest planted at Mairtown. One of our sunflowers was hand delivered to our wonderful neighbour who helped us bolt down the greenhouse.
“Being able to put themselves in another person's shoes allows children to care for and relate to others. Gratitude shows people that they have benefited from the kindness of others, and so in turn they are more likely to perform kind acts themselves” - Mary L. Gavin, MD
The week we planted the sunflowers in the ground was the week we learnt a lot about the diets of snails and their preferred cuisine…
This tough lesson lead to conversations about pests. “Lets make rat traps for them, wait snail traps!!!” one of the tamariki said. So that we did.
Five weeks on our māra kai is full of lush greens and budding flowers. The best part of it all? Teaching our tamariki about how easy it is to grow healthy vegetables in your own back yard. That kale CAN be delicious...
and that Mairtown has to hold the record for growing the biggest radishes in the world!!!
Half the fun of gardening is getting to eat what you grow. But the positive effect a sun-warmed strawberry (or this case spicy radish) has on your tamariki will continue to ripple throughout their lives.
Since starting the journey we have been able to gift plenty of seedlings to whānau and now fresh produce which makes our hearts happy. The feeling for our tamariki of being able to gift what they have grown builds a sense of competence, pride, ownership and sows the seed of a future gardner.
Get on board whānau, let’s teach our tamariki to be proactive in their heath and wellbeing and teach them how to nourish their bodies and continue to be kaitiaki of this place we call home.
Nga mihi nui,
He waka eke noa.
We’re all in this together.