Tamworth school's Stephanie Alexander garden teaching life lessons

Hillvue Public School are creating a generation of green thumbs with a specialised garden that teaches all things food “from seed to pate” and so much more.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program was established at the school in 2013, and has grown and grown until finally this term every student from kindergarten to year six has been incorporated in the program.

The Stephanie Alexander philosophy of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing was born out of the 2001 recognition “that there was a shortage of pleasurable food education in schools.” 

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The school employs both a garden specialist in Angela Brown, as well as a kitchen specialist in Wendy Boreham, who is also an ex-student and learning support officer.

“We are always telling kids to eat healthy, but this makes them think about it, and shows them how to do it from seed to plate,” Ms Boreham said.

Students not only learn the principles of gardening and growing plants, herbs and trees, but also valuable life lessons about nutrition, health, wellbeing and of course, teamwork.

“The garden is sustainable, so when we harvest we keep some seeds to plant again, while the program also encourages the students to eat seasonally,” Ms Boreham said.

“Every student does four two week rotations in the program a term, which means we also devise 64 different recipes in a school year.

“It is a different way to teach and learn, and it is all about sharing and community – parents would probably be surprised just how much vegetable I can get kids to eat, and there is no pressure.” 

For garden specialist Mrs Brown the program acts as “an incredibly powerful teaching tool”. 

“It is an amazing initiative and a really positive experience for the children that they will take with them through life,” she said.

“The students not only learn healthy eating habits, but also numeracy, literacy, sharing and how to use and respect the environment.

“It is a very powerful hands-on education tool that is completely different to other subjects taught in the classroom.” 

While Ms Boreham said that in the initial stages the students were a bit reluctant to get on board and get their hands dirty, although four and a half years later it is one of the favourite subjects.

“The kids that started the program in year 2 are now in year six, and have learnt how to prepare and eat cuisine from all over the world,” she said.

Over 10 per cent, amounting to 1500 Public Schools across the state are now involved in the program, including Nemingha, Bullimbal, and Gunnedah South.