“Take a moment to nurture nature” was the theme embraced by Te Kura O Papatuanuku Wairarapa Earth School in Carterton this year for Conservation Week, which the Ruamahanga Restoration Trust supported with a large donation of native seedlings.
Earth School co-founder and project coordinator, Emilie Neubauer, arranged for students from South End Primary to mulch and plant the site during school hours with assistance from community volunteers. Emilie also has plans to convert the old sports playing field at the school into a forested area for nature-based learning and recreation.
“Students have made plans to reforest parts of the school playing field. They came up with plans for an ‘education outside the classroom’ wilderness area that showcases native bush and provides shade and shelter for outdoor play and learning. In the plans, there is a forest school-style camping and fire pit area, a flying fox, and a cross-country running track, all within native bush plantings.”
In order to help with the ambitious plans, the Ruamahanga Restoration Trust sought advice from QEII Regional Representative, Trevor Thompson, who on seeing the site suggested a choice of plants that included a row of coastal flax, koromiko, and every now and then a coprosma propinqua, planted at 1m spacing along the fence-line, with tree lucerne 2m out from the fenceline plantings, at 2.5m spacings.
“I’d then look at another row of tree lucerne,” he told us, “a further 2.5 m out and staggered spacing, and within this quick-growing tree lucerne would be planted our local hoheria sextylosa- lacebark, manatu, ribbon wood, kowhai microphylla, totara, matai, hinau, and black maire.”
Trevor thinks there is plenty of space on the site for a mix of native plants.
“The understorey would be planted as a second or third stage according to how much gets done,” he added, “but it’s better to get the new fence line and tree lucerne in, before planting the big natives.”
Emilie sees this as playing an important role in the students’ education. “Outdoor learning provides enhanced learning outcomes,” she told us during a site visit, adding that hands-on experiential learning “connects book-learning to real life, enabling learners to see the need for maths by looking at measuring and mapping, for example.”
“We use our teaching gardens to enhance learning outcomes, and also to invite students and learners of all ages from all over the Wairarapa to learn and connect with Papatūānuku and each other. Native bush provides shelter and learning opportunities such as matauranga maori - discovering rongoā - the study of native medicinal plants, wild edible foraging and weaving,” she said.
The Ruamahanga Restoration Trust is proud to support and nurture nature at this level and plans to continue planting natives in the school field, and looks forward to watching students and young trees grow side-by-side.