Garden adventures continue for Ōtaki College students

Mike King in the Ōtaki College greenhouse. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Ōtaki College’s Aho Aho Adventures will continue for another year after the program received additional funding from the Lions and Nikau Foundation.

The program was designed by Mike King and Ōtaki College’s Learning Support Coordinator, Kate Lindsay, for students who find it difficult to sit still in class or who need stimulation in different ways.

The new funding allows Mike to work 20 hours a week at school on a one-to-one basis with students in the garden.

Grade 10 student Pierre Lange-Gerrard picks mushrooms.
Grade 10 student Pierre Lange-Gerrard picks mushrooms.

Over the summer, Mike redesigned the garden at the back of the school grounds to create a space where students could come and learn in a different environment, immediately stimulating their senses.

Loving his role so much he fought to find more funding, Mike said that now that students are used to him, he is able to impact their lives.

“The students have finally started to get used to my presence and to open up to me, I feel that my work has a positive impact on their lives.

“I have found breaks to be the most important times to be in the garden as I am inundated with curious students.”

A box of vegetables collected by the students of Ōtaki Middle School.
A box of vegetables collected by the students of Ōtaki Middle School.

Students are allowed to hang out in the garden and greenhouse at morning tea and lunchtime if Mike is around.

As of February, all major renovations and repairs to the packing shed have been completed, with Mike and the students now focusing on growing vegetables and making ice cream.

On Monday, Mike and the students harvest produce from the garden. Collecting them in plant boxes, around 10 boxes are then made and sold to teachers with a plan to use the money to do something fun with the students involved in the garden at the end of the year.

Tuesday is ice cream day.

Grade 7 students Benji Thomas-Inglis and Scott Eastwood chop pumpkins in the packing shed.
Grade 7 students Benji Thomas-Inglis and Scott Eastwood chop pumpkins in the packing shed.

“I’ve set up a basic ice lab in the packing shed where we make one ice cream a week with the students.

“The only rule is that we must use at least one ingredient that we have harvested – either filled or from our garden, which students can sample during lunch breaks.”

The program is all about using immediate sensory experiences to engage students, so in the garden it’s taste and smell.

“Students aren’t afraid to try new tastes – they even like vegetables although there are now half-eaten chilies and citrus fruits strewn all over the place.”

Together, Mike and the students developed their range of herbs, slowly expanding the collection of tropical fruit trees in the greenhouse, and helped local beekeeper Phillip Cowan who in turn gave them honey to use in their ice cream.

Mike also organized events to involve the whole community, opening the garden on Saturday mornings and organizing ice cream tastings.

“My personal highlight was hosting ice cream tastings in the greenhouse by candlelight on a Saturday night with live music from a student band.

“They were great fun and I look forward to hosting more events in the future that involve the students more.”

Next term, the college will launch an Alternative Pathways program at Ōtaki College with sufficient funding for five students.

“I would love to work with these students in the community.

“We would like to renovate and maintain the gardens of local kindergartens, schools and retirement villages.”

Comments are closed.