Omata School branches out
Omata School has branched out to take learning beyond the classrooms into the school yard.
For the past two terms all 170 children who attend the semirural school have been mucking in to help transform a blank dirt canvas into an orchard.
Along the way the orchard project took on a life of its own.
After a ‘productive school garden’ seed was planted two years back, principal Karen Brisco decided the time was ripe to add a few fruit trees.
‘‘This simple idea quickly turned into a major project as the whole school embarked on a rich topic to learn about, plan and then ultimately to plant an orchard,’’ Brisco said.
The project aimed to create a ‘sustainable, visually enticing, accessible space where children and community can connect with nature and nutrition,’ she said.
Guiding them was landscape designer Bena Denton whose wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the orchard was contagious. She provided the specifics by giving structure to the children’s ideas, and volunteered on the ground.
‘‘It was fun doing the plans and research,’’ said student Eva Niedermayr. ’’We’ve learnt heaps, like how to centre plants, and it’s been fun getting dirty,’’ her schoolmate Amahlia Williams said.
The project ran curriculum deep with students using maths, literacy, geography, and other areas of school work for the ever evolving work in progress.
Phase one was the design stage where kids put their design talents to the test at the drawing board.
‘‘What blew me away is that the children have incredible ideas, they don’t need help designing an orchard. They’ve got that sussed. What they needed help with is structuring those ideas,’’ Denton said.
To date the orchard has young fruit trees, berry bushes and ground covers, most of which are edible or support species for those edibles and recently students planted native trees for a shelter belt to protect them. Everything in the orchard was donated and parents helped during working bees to put in the hard scaping.
NB: Sadly, many of the plants were stolen but the community has responded magnificently and most of the plants have already been replaced.
Amahlia Williams all good with getting her hands dirty planting trees for the orchard shelter belt.