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Planting the seeds of education

Thousands of kindergarten children are getting their hands dirty as they compete to grow the largest sunflower.

Dalton’s Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project kicked off on last week [Monday 21 August] and tamariki [children] around New Zealand are digging in to get their sunflowers blooming.

Numerous Wairarapa kindergartens are taking part this year, with over three thousand kids from the Wellington region participating. About 460 Wairarapa children are involved.

Though the sunflower competition runs biannually, Lansdowne Kindergarten grows sunflowers every year – teaching children about the all-important cultivation process.

“The children take pleasure in growing their own fruit, vegetables and flowers”, Lansdowne kindergarten teacher, Bex Monk said.

The kindergarten aims to develop confident and active lifelong learners. Part of that is done by empowering them to learn new skills, such as gardening.

“The children are supported by the teachers to be confident, independent and resilient learners and learn how to plant and harvest healthy food,” Monk said.

Children are also encouraged to take their sunflowers home to grow and get the whole whānau [family] involved.

Just across town, Kahurangi Kindergarten plans to add their sunflowers to their already thriving garden filled with kai [food] and other tipu [plants].

The experience of growing sunflowers is something visible for the children, Kahurangi Kindergarten teacher Anna Hunt said.

“It’s actually a really cool process with the sunflowers because it’s so obvious,” she said.

The kindergarten has been growing their own garden for years and Hunt said that the children often take
their experience home.

“We do have a lot of [families] that say ‘we started a vegetable garden’”, she said.

Once the sunflowers have grown and flowered, the children can collect the seeds and peel the shells to eat them.

Some are even left for the birds.

“We try and provide an environment for insects and birds as well”, Hunt said.

Nothing goes to waste though, Hunt confirmed that the stalks get dried and reused as climbing tripods for other vegetables or plants.

The sunflower growing project started 10 years ago, and this year marks the largest number of entrants in its history.

Dalton’s General Manager Colin Parker said gardening was now an even more valuable life-long skill for both children and adults, especially with higher fruit and vegetable prices.

“Each child can develop gardening skills with hands-on learning about a plant’s life cycle by sowing seeds, watching them germinate, tending to the seedlings, transplanting them into the soil, and daily plant care,” he said.

The children also engage with numbers and measurement by tracking their plant’s growth each week.

“Our project aims to not only develop these skills in children but also bring a sense of happiness and joy to everyone that takes part,” Parker said.

Final measurements of the sunflowers will be taken on December 11, with the winners announced on December 13.

Times-Age will follow up with local kindergartens as their sunflowers grow.


  1. Trust the children are not using potting mix, should be wearing masks as well and outside to get the fresh air in their lungs not potting mix. Adele.

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