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Growing sweet science

South End School pupil Leanna (top) instructs classmate Charlie on how to prepare the ground for the tree planting. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

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South End School pupils aren’t bringing healthy food to school – they’re growing it themselves.

Community Fruit Harvesting Wairarapa donated six fruit trees to the school this week as part of its fruit trees in schools programme.

Founder Hayden Mischefski has joined forces with Wairarapa Earth School project co-ordinator Sarah Wright, who had already worked with South End School pupils to plant a food forest, design its own science lab from a shipping container and create an outdoor classroom.

“If they grow it themselves, they’re more likely to eat it,” Wright said.

Mischefski has so far donated and planted 37 fruit trees at eight Wairarapa schools in the past two years, thanks to businesses which contributed funds towards the project.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we democratised the access to food so people could grow their own trees and have free access to fresh fruit?’,” Mischefski said.

And that’s exactly what the pupils at South End School have been doing.

Whether its learning how to forage, making smoothies from edible weeds, or cooking soup from the potatoes and pumpkins they’ve grown themselves, the pupils have embraced the science behind sustainability.

“It’s hilarious, the kids will find carrots when we’re doing some weeding and they’ll just eat them,” said landscaper Tom Conwell.

Conwell has been working at the school three hours a week to help maintain the food forest and to assist with building the shed the pupils have designed.

Wright said it was great to have Conwell come in and “diligently work through the mess” to get the garden to where it is now.

She said the “teaching gardens” and fruit trees donated by Mischefski meant the kids were learning about sustainability, how to recycle materials, and much more.

“They’re learning composting but it’s also bringing science into their learning,” she said.

The extra time outdoors also meant the pupils were more focused when they returned to their regular classroom lessons.

Teacher Julie Jones said it was “exciting” for the school to have someone like Mischefski who understood the importance of planting trees in the wider community.

“Yes, the kids are learning about food, but they’re also learning about living ecosystems,” she said.

Pupil Leanna said she loved getting out of the classroom and had been involved in most of the planting at the school’s food forest.

“It’s good for when we’re older and want to do gardening, we’ll know how to do it,” she said.

The school planned on planting the two apple trees, two citrus trees and two feijoa trees next week as part of its Matariki celebrations.

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