Planting seeds of healthy living

Having recently won a United Nations award for their From the Garden - Kitchen/Canteen-Classroom initiative, Bungwahl Public School is leading the way when it comes to having a healthy lifestyle.

Bungwahl principal Sue Hobbs said she was overwhelmed to win the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Award 2011 in the Environmental Schools category, but knew what they were doing was worthwhile.

Taking a holistic approach

"At our school we take a holistic approach to our studies and health," Mrs Hobbs said.

"Around eight years ago we commenced on programs to improve our children's health and to weed out the junk food from our canteen.

"Being a State Jump Rope for the Heart display team and receiving funding from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program allowed us to build the infrastructure for a home-style kitchen and edible garden to further support our focus on children's health."

Bungwahl is a small school with 35 students, however Mrs Hobbs said parent helpers were critical to the success of the program.

"Many [parents] volunteer their time and have been an integral part of making our garden such a success," she said.

"They have supported working bees to build the kitchen and gardens, sourced local sponsorships and media coverage and assisted with the children in kitchen and garden classes."

The best day of the week

She said the children thought the day they worked in the kitchen and garden was the best day of the week.

Kitchen/garden specialist Nikki Dixon showed Years 3 - 6 children hands-on-food education through a 45-minute class in the edible garden, and a 90-minute class in the new kitchen classroom.

"The children are learning to build and maintain their gardens, growing and harvesting a wide range of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers," Mrs Hobbs said.

As well as growing the produce, the children also prepared meals to share with students, staff and volunteers on tables decorated with flowers from the garden.

About more than food

The students have experimented with solar energy in the chook house, seen the difference a sun trap makes, checked out cross pollination and learned how to get the eggs out safely when a possum has decided to sit on them, Mrs Hobbs said.

New initiatives this year include:

  • extending the program to K-2 with these children being responsible for the chickens
  • painting the fibreglass tanks attached to the classrooms
  • adding an Aboriginal perspective to the program - the language and culture
  • planting a bush tucker garden.

"We have seen significant results such higher student engagement, zero obesity, the kitchen classes and canteen meeting each others' needs and through a kitchen/garden column in the local paper we share what we do with the wider community," Mrs Hobbs said.

"We might be small, but our love for our kitchen/garden and everything it involves is huge."

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