As we begin our third year of operation it is fascinating to see how we have grown. There are obvious developments like the number of learners and staff and the associated increase in sports, groups and learning opportunities but another important area of growth and development for me has been our garden area that sits just behind the plaza.
For me this area is a symbol of the College and what it stands for and what it has achieved.
On an obvious level it allows our learners to learn about sustainability and producing food from the land, it allows those basic skills and joys of gardening and harvesting to be developed. It continues to enable us to link ideas of sustainability and self sufficiency with real experiences. It is always exciting to see the tomatoes colouring, the sweet corn developing, the fruit trees bearing and the strawberries maturing. For some of our learners this is a unique and new experience.
The area has also provided opportunities for learners to develop practical skills in areas such as concreting and carpentry and to work with adults in trade related activities.
It has allowed us the develop the foundation skills that learners going into agriculture/horticulture and hard materials courses in the senior school can build on.
What particularly excites me is the way it also provides a creative outlet for some of our learners. From the designing, planning and prototyping of the area through to our Te Rito Harakeke learners creating our scarecrows. The painting of wooden structures, the lancewood sculpture which serves as a centerpiece, all of these have given learners the chance to develop their creativity in a real and practical environment.
In a similar way this area assists with teaching learners about accountability and taking responsibility, put simply plants die if they are not nurtured.
As gardens tend to, it has also provided a way for community connection to be developed. As I have said our Te Rito Harekeke learners can be involved and feel that the area belongs to them as much as anyone else. We continue to develop a strong relationship with the Men’s Shed who provide advice, manpower and encouragement as new areas take shape and are developed. Just last week a local contractor offered to keep the lawn area mowed and the list of those who have donated time and goods is endless. This area has allowed us to bring the community in to the school and develop strong relationships with our community.
As the garden continues to grow organically it has enabled each year level to be part of a legacy. Our foundation learners have their personalised rock path and our second cohort have their flower garden as a permanent reminder of their first year at Rolleston College.
More than any other space in the school this garden has been designed, built and nurtured by the learners themselves. It is their space and their ongoing project. It will continue to grow as we do and it will increasingly represent and symbolise our development.