Students learn gardening skills
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.