Stu­dents learn gar­den­ing skills

Whanganui Midweek - - News -

Stu­dents from the Green Fin­gers En­viro team at Whanganui In­ter­me­di­ate re­cently got the chance to learn about one of Aotearoa’s old­est tra­di­tions. Stu­dents learned all about grow­ing ku¯ mara and have be­gun the process of grow­ing sprouts in what is tra­di­tion­ally called a tapapa.

As one of Whanganui’s nine En­vi­roschools, Whanganui In­ter­me­di­ate gains reg­u­lar sup­port from lo­cal En­vi­roschools fa­cil­i­ta­tor Ron Fisher. Last year, Ron worked along­side Massey Univer­sity to bring a series of work­shops to Whanganui En­vi­roschool teach­ers to learn all about the tra­di­tional meth­ods of grow­ing ku­mara. This year he is en­cour­ag­ing schools to do it again and some have even saved seed from last year’s crop.

“Ku¯ mara is a great op­tion to grow in school gar­dens for many rea­sons. Firstly, ku¯ mara from the su­per­mar­ket is ex­pen­sive, but once you have started grow­ing your own ku¯ mara, you can save seed and plant next year’s crop for free. Se­condly, most chil­dren love ku¯ mara, whether it’s roasted, mashed, fried or even made into ku¯ mara chips. Thirdly, ku¯ mara doesn’t need much watering over the sum­mer hol­i­day pe­riod; a time when teach­ers and stu­dents aren’t able to tend to the school gar­den as reg­u­larly. This is un­like many other crops such as po­ta­toes and is due to the fact that ku¯ mara orig­i­nates from parts of South Amer­ica where it is hot and dry,” says Ron.

One of the five guid­ing prin­ci­ples that En­vi­roschools fol­low is that of “Ma¯ ori Per­spec­tives”. Learn­ing about tra­di­tional meth­ods of grow­ing food, stu­dents learn how vi­tal suc­cess in the gar­den was for Ma¯ ori in times when there were no super­mar­kets. There are many pro­to­cols and prac­tices that were tra­di­tion­ally un­der­taken in the gar­den and in most cases these are still rel­e­vant to­day. Stu­dents ex­plore these by tak­ing a hands-on ap­proach.

The first part of the grow­ing process in­volves trick­ing the ku¯ mara into think­ing it is sum­mer and this re­quires heat. In the case of Whanganui In­ter­me­di­ate, they are lucky they have a green­house; this pro­vides the per­fect cli­mate to en­cour­age the ku¯ mara to sprout. The stu­dents placed two ku¯ mara in an ice­cream con­tainer with a mix of sand and saw­dust. All the stu­dents need to do is keep them moist by watering them ev­ery cou­ple of days. In eight weeks time, they ex­pect the sprouts to be over 10cm tall and ready for plant­ing. In the mean­time, stu­dents have thought about the new raised beds they will need to build and have done the mea­sure­ments. The tech de­part­ment will now get in­volved and stu­dents will help build the new raised beds.

With the tapapa ku¯ mara planted and placed safely in the green­house, an­other job for the green fin­gers team was to do some main­te­nance work in the or­chard. In re­cent years, stu­dents have been plant­ing new fruit trees at the school and it is es­sen­tial these are looked af­ter in their early years. Stu­dents re­leased the trees by pulling the sur­round­ing weeds. Then they ap­plied com­post and mulch to help main­tain mois­ture over the sum­mer months.

If your school would like to find out more about be­com­ing an En­vi­roschool then there is an in­tro­duc­tion to the pro­gramme com­ing up on Oc­to­ber 31 from 3.30pm at the Whanganui Dis­trict Coun­cil. Schools can con­tact Ron Fisher di­rectly at ron.en­vi­roschools@gmail.com.

Stu­dents mak­ing a mod­ern ver­sion of the tra­di­tional tapapa, or ku¯ mara bed.

Stu­dents get stuck into the or­chard to main­tain the young fruit trees planted by past stu­dents.

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