Students in Canterbury are swapping screens for spades and learning how to grow and care for trees.
The Orchards in Schools programme was initiated by the Canterbury Horticultural Society which supplies apple, pear and plum trees as well as compost, boxing and on-going support to schools at no cost.
The programme provides learning opportunities about the environment, science and sustainability and schools often report they find planting trees encourages the children to plant vegetables.
The total number of schools with orchards is nineteen and growing. Educator Mary Tingey is the green-fingered programme coordinator. As well as overseeing the planting, she is employed to go round and see every school at least twice a year.
“They lean to use a spade, how to be gentle, what roots, buds and shoots are. I was at a school the other day and the kids said ‘this is the most awesome thing we’ve ever done’, getting outside and digging. They will now look after the trees really well,” she says.
Canterbury Horticultural Society member and moss grower Allan Patterson was helping Mary with a planting day at Hornby Primary School; the latest school to sign up for an orchard in Christchurch.
“These trees will grow with these children and you’ll find that they’re are bit more protective of them if one of their mates is swinging off it,” he chuckles.