St Paul’s Kindergarten in Massey were the winners of the Puriri Award for the best pre-school or school in West Auckland to teach students about sustainability.
Brief background to this article
In 1967, at the request of Archbishop Liston, the St Dominic’s College and its staff of Sisters transferred to Henderson in West Auckland to make Catholic education available for secondary students in this area where the population was expanding rapidly.
The Massey Parish had been recently established and staffed by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and as the numbers of young families grew, Fr Don Hughes OMI enlarged St Paul’s Church and saw that there was a real need for a Catholic Kindergarten. There was also enough parish land adjacent to the church for a building, with safe parking.
Sr Frances Lister OP was approached and in 1980 the first Kindergarten children were enrolled. The Kindergarten had very humble beginnings in the downstairs room under the presbytery. It was damp, with a concrete floor and little else. Sr Frances went to woodwork classes in the evenings to learn how to make shelves, cupboards and stools and those are still in use today. The whole venture is a credit to her, and her very devoted staff and the many, many generous parents and voluntary helpers over these thirty-three years.
The following report, which gives a glimpse of just how much progress has been made, is written by the Supervisor, Mrs Kim Jones and edited with her permission.
Sr Leonie OP
……After consideration and consultation we decided to relocate our existing vegetable garden to a place that was accessible on a daily basis irrespective of weather. The raised garden along the side of the Art Room was an ideal situation as we could access it from the covered walkway. The children were very excited about this idea. A grant from Waitakere Beautiful Trust provided funding to purchase a Hungry Bin, gardening gloves, aprons and tools for the children to use.
Through the Hungry Bin the children are now sorting rubbish in the Lunch Room so that they can feed the worms. The children then feed the suitable food scraps to the worms. Now that the bin is established the children are collecting the worm tea, bottling it and have designed labels so that we will be able to sell it to their families as fertiliser.
Once the children had planted their seeds they looked after them by watering them. When they were big enough the children were able to plant them with the assistance of our experts from Kings Plant Barn, Henderson. Some parents came to help and the local newspaper took photographs. We have developed relationships with our wider community, including Kings Plant Barn.
The children are taking their knowledge on growing food home, to teach their own families. Families are valuing this knowledge and taking the opportunity to try gardening at home. Our children are making discoveries through direct experience.
One child found a caterpillar eating holes in the leaves. Together we researched, using the internet and books, discovering it was a white moth caterpillar. Children are involved in enquiry based learning, through the internet, experts, books, family etc.
They discovered how to make a safe spray for our garden, wrote up the recipe, made up the spray and use it regularly on the plants. This has enabled children to develop their literacy and numeracy skills. They have also made butterfly scarers and a scarecrow out of recycled materials. They are showing concern for the Earth, being guardians/Kaitiaki not only through growing plants and sharing them with their families, but through conscious efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Children were able to link their first harvest to the Maori festival of Matariki. This festival had great significance and meaning to them as they wanted the stars in the Matariki constellation to be bright so that their harvest would be plentiful. The children invited their families to a Soup Day, sharing our first main harvest from our new edible garden. As Matariki festivals usually involve the sharing of food, our children were able to make nutritious soup and share this with extended families. The children were so proud of their soup.
On the night of the awards we were treated to wonderful hospitality from the KWB Trust at the Council Chambers, and were fortunate enough to meet some wonderful, dedicated characters that one could only expect to find out West!
At the time of the Puriri Award Presentation we watched and listened to the achievements of our fellow peers as they went up to receive their finalist certificates, expecting to join them…but incredibly for us, we were called up to go as the recipient and winners of the Puriri Award! What a moment for our whole and extended Kindergarten community!
This project has enriched our community in so many different ways, but perhaps the greatest was developing a greater understanding of ecological consciousness while discovering a deep, profound link to sacramentality and seeing it in the ordinary.
We are deeply grateful to all those who inspired, worked, donated, volunteered and shared to make it possible.