Omata School branches out

North Taranaki Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS­TINE WALSH

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.

CHRIS­TINE WALSH/ STUFF

Amahlia Wil­liams all good with get­ting her hands dirty plant­ing trees for the or­chard shel­ter belt.

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