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Rhode Street School

Since 2007, the students have created annual Vision Maps as part of their Enviroschools inquiry unit on sustainability. From these student-centred ideas came the popular theme of growing their own healthy food. The students also wanted to learn how to prepare and cook the produce and, finally, how to market and share their surplus.

Utilising the Food and Nutrition for Healthy Confident Kids Toolkit and the Team-Up Resources ,the school created a model that supported its kaupapa of: “What we can do for one, we must do for all.” A strategic focus was placed on a whole school approach to improving and strengthening their tamariki, both physically and emotionally, through learning real life skills involving growing healthy kai, preparing and eating kai, and sharing our healthy kai with our whānau and wider community.

Each class has planned, planted, and sustained its own garden over the last three years. This meant every child could participate in each crucial stage of learning: planting the seeds, growing the seeds, transplanting the seedlings, caring for the plants, and hopefully seeing and enjoying the finished product.

During the term, each class participated in an inquiry unit looking at planning, planting, and sustaining their own garden. They now have strawberries, cabbages, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, and sunflowers. An orchard of feijoas, plums, pears, and apples has also been planted.

Alongside this, another project was developing in the after-school and holiday programmes. The school had received a grant from the Ministry of Social Development in 2008 to extend its programmes over the next three years to build a commercial kitchen and student café onsite, to support the teaching and learning of sustainability. The District Health Board and Healthy Eating Healthy Action programme have provided further resources and curriculum support.

The school has installed a 10 metre x 4 metre tunnel house and four hydroponic tables to produce watercress for commercial sale and sustainable funds to continue its mahi. The commercial kitchen has been operating for nearly two years and is used daily by selected students to produce healthy kai for school lunches and a koha table. There are now a commercial oven, six-burner hob, hot plate (no deep fryer), microwaves, chiller, teaching space, and four work stations.

The school has almost completed its Kai Time Café which seats 250 students.

Students from other schools will have the opportunity to harvest tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers, salad leaves, and winter vegetables to produce chutneys, sauces, and healthy lunches. They are also learning the technological skills of preserving, dehydrating, and packaging, while enjoying the ‘fruits’ of their labours.

The success of these initiatives has been the students leading the whole school vision, supported and sustained by teachers, parents, and school leaders.

Website: www.rhodestreet.school.nz