Go Gar­den­ing joined school chil­dren at this year’s ‘Eye on Na­ture’ in South Auck­land.

Go Gardening - - Editorial -

Eye on Na­ture

Eye on Na­ture brings kids and their com­mu­ni­ties face to face with sci­en­tists and pas­sion­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists from around New Zealand. This award win­ning en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion event is held each au­tumn among the to­tara trees at the north­ern tip of Auck­land Botanic Gar­dens. The beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion with its back­drop of na­tive bush is just off the south­ern mo­tor­way - where ur­ban sprawl meets na­ture.

Eye on Na­ture is run by Manukau Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion Char­i­ta­ble Trust with the sup­port of Auck­land Coun­cil and the Auck­land Botanic Gar­dens. En­vi­ron­men­tal Part­ners are both lo­cal and na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing For­est & Bird, Moths & But­ter­flies Trust of NZ, The Bee Lady, Sus­tain­able Coast Lines, Lea­gasea, The Com­post Col­lec­tive, Gar­den­s4Health, Roots Cre­ative En­trepreneurs, and Love Food Hate Waste.

The event hosts around 1,500 pri­mary school stu­dents who attend school-only days dur­ing a week cul­mi­nat­ing in a free fam­ily day for the whole com­mu­nity on Satur­day. Each year there is a dif­fer­ent theme and this year, the theme was ‘Edi­bles - from the ground to the ta­ble’.

On Thurs­day we joined a group of lively year five and six pupils from Daw­son Pri­mary on a series of in­ter­ac­tive learn­ing sta­tions. First up was Bee Lady, Sara Russ who had chil­dren en­thralled with her vi­va­cious pre­sen­ta­tion about pol­li­na­tion. Sara was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally as­sisted with au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion as kids matched flow­ers with their fruits and but­ter­flies with their host plants. This en­gag­ingly sim­ple ex­er­cise used string and beau­ti­fully painted props pro­duced by the Manukau Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

Next came a bush walk guided by the Auck­land Bio­di­ver­sity sci­en­tists. Im­pres­sively, real live tui and pīwakawaka (fan­tails) showed up just at the right time as the chil­dren were in­tro­duced to na­tive plants with large painted mod­els of the birds that feed on them.

Then it was time for an ac­tiv­ity look­ing at what’s in a healthy lunch box. Here, the chil­dren cre­ated their own tasty snack us­ing veg­eta­bles and healthy dips. Ni­cole Stan­ton of the Manukau Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion Char­i­ta­ble Trust says key goals of this year’s theme were to en­cour­age sus­tain­able food so­lu­tions while pro­mot­ing the mes­sage that ‘our en­vi­ron­ment pro­vides food so let’s look after it.’

Satur­day’s fam­ily day, which at­tracted well over 8000 vis­i­tors, of­fered fur­ther at­trac­tions in­clud­ing the chance to join Bug Man Rudd Klein­paste on a bush walk to dis­cover na­tive bugs and in­sects. A gi­ant maze, Sticky TV pre­sen­ters, cul­tural per­for­mances and live mu­sic added to the fun at­mos­phere and sense of oc­ca­sion. Fes­tive games en­cour­aged chil­dren to learn all about what’s in their back­yard.

The big idea is that the en­vi­ron­ment pro­vides food, so let’s look after it!

At the Gar­den­s4Health tent vol­un­teers ad­vised on low cost sus­tain­able veg­etable gar­den­ing. This or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­vides free, prac­ti­cal ad­vice on set­ting up and main­tain­ing school and com­mu­nity gar­dens across Auck­land. In the Le­gasea tent there was an op­por­tu­nity to hold a real fish while learn­ing about look­ing after our pre­cious ma­rine re­source, in­clud­ing the cor­rect way to safely re­lease un­der­sized fish back into the sea. The Bee Hive of­fered a chance to taste test honey while learn­ing all about our bees. With Love Food Hate Waste, kids could make a smoothie and learn what to do with left-over food.

Eye on Na­ture’s cre­ative art com­pe­ti­tions are an an­nual high­light. These in­volve kinder­gartens through to sec­ondary schools and in­clude wear­able art, cook­ing and other cre­ative art com­pe­ti­tions. In this year’s gar­den art com­pe­ti­tion chil­dren had to present plants they had grown in un­usual con­tain­ers.

With the theme ‘Funky Gar­den Art’ the 2017 Wear­able Art com­pe­ti­tion at­tracted sixty en­trants from pri­mary and sec­ondary school stu­dents around Auck­land.

‘Eye on Na­ture is all about in­spir­ing chil­dren with ac­tiv­i­ties that pro­mote eco prac­tices’, says Ni­cole. ‘We want to plant a seed and grow a young mind.’

Pīwakawaka cre­ated by the chil­dren at Cos­grove Pri­mary School fea­tured in the cre­ative art com­pe­ti­tion.

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