The gardening efforts of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary Waterloo students will soon be on the shelf.
The school’s community garden is one of five featured in Indira Naidoo’s new garden-inspired cookbook The Edible City, with a chapter devoted to the garden’s history, recipes from produce grown and photographs of the students at work.
The television presenter returned to the school to launch the book and share what she appreciated of the garden space she became acquainted with three years earlier.
She told the students from Kindergarten to Year 6 that their garden was becoming famous around Australia as she travelled to each state and territory to promote the book. Next month New York audiences will also learn about Our Lady of Mt Carmel’s gardening efforts.
“It’s a really beautiful garden,” she said. “The reason I think it’s beautiful is because it has been created by children. A lot of children don’t know where their food has come from, they think it comes from shops and supermarkets, they don’t realise it comes from gardens and farms, and that carrots come out of the ground.
“When you are part of the garden club and look after the garden, you start to learn all of these really important things, and when you grow your own food, you eat better and have better health.
“It’s also great fun to garden, and get dirty and play with worms.”
Everything to do with gardening is quite fun.
The school’s gardening club was established in 2011. More than 60 per cent of students are members, planting, watering, and composting one lunch time per week.
Garden club facilitator Alisha Bourke said cooking activities with fellow teacher Helen Thornborough using the food grown in the garden since 2012 had helped students stay interested in the project.
Children from Years 2 to 6 were first invited to join the club and a volunteer from the Sydney Botanic Gardens shared her knowledge of permaculture to help the garden grow further.
“When I started I knew nothing about gardening and I had to learn with the kids, so that has been really cool,” Ms Bourke said.
“Some of the kids who are in Years 5 and 6 now have been members since Year 1, since it started.
“A lot is due to Helen’s delicious cooking.
“They get to bring a friend down when it’s eating time and we share a meal and put the recipe in the school newsletter.
“When we harvest spare food, they’ll take it home and cook with their families. Kale chips are very popular. We had a big harvest of kale a couple of months ago and a lot of kids came back and said ‘We cooked it, and it was so delicious!’
“It’s definitely broadening their tastes. There are things that we grow in the garden and cook that they would never try at home. So many families will tell you that their kids refuse to eat veggies at home, yet when we cook it we have them lining up to have seconds, and thirds.”
Year 6 students Thomas Doherty, 12, and Kiara Green, 11, are both garden club members.
Thomas joined the garden club nine months ago and often takes care of the compost.
“Everything to do with gardening is quite fun,” Thomas said. “I like how you can do many things in such a small area – water plants, plant and dig up plants. When I was introduced to this it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.
“My favourite vegetable to plant would probably be broccoli, just because it’s quite easy to plant. On my first day we dug up potatoes and we had such a large quantity of them people got to take them home.”
Kiara has been a garden club member for two years and said zucchini and spinach were her favourite plants to grow.
“I mainly do planting – vegetables, fruits,” she said. “If we want to cook or make a feast for school we can and don’t have to spend money on ingredients.
“It’s pretty good how much a little school has accomplished within our garden.”
Principal John Farrell thanked the students for their teamwork which had kept the garden alive and created a calm green space in the school.
“Six years ago we first had the idea we would have a garden in the spot that it is now,” he said. “We had some very passionate people who carried the garden forward. It’s an incredible effort. Without the wonderful work of all the students it wouldn’t be there.”