They may be just three or four years old, but the children of Katikati Kindergarten are helping to feed their local community and learning to protect and enhance their environment.
The kindergarten's environmental philosophy, developed over the past decade, has recently seen them earn the prestigious beyond Green-Gold status in the national Enviroschools programme.
They will be among a number of organisations promoting their work at the Katikati Environmental Expo this weekend.
One of the projects the kindergarten is involved in is the Kati Kaiway - an edible walkway in Gilfillan Reserve. They adopted the neglected reserve, once littered with graffiti and broken glass, a few years ago and helped to plant 50 fruit trees, including feijoa, plum, nashi, walnut, citrus and Chilean guavas.
The children help to weed the pathway and keep it free of rubbish.
“Part of the Enviroschools programme involves reaching out into your community,” says head teacher Cushla Scott.
“We thought the Kaiway would be a perfect way for people to source fruit trees. We advocate for healthy lunchboxes and people were saying fruit was too expensive, so we thought we'd plant this edible walkway.”
Each bed of trees along the walkway includes educational signage, and everyone in the community is encouraged to weed and water the plants.
A peaceful, healthy and sustainable environment is at the heart of teaching and learning at Katikati Kindergarten.
“The whole of our philosophy is around creating a peaceful environment where children have areas to play and explore,” says Cushla.
“The children learn about recycling and we have two worm farms and a compost bin. They also do lots of planting of herbs and veges and learn about bugs and how to keep the soil healthy.
“We're empowering our students to love the environment, because when they love it they will care for it and care for one another.”
There are no plastic playgrounds at Katikati Kindergarten – they built their own playground from adobe and have planted large, shady trees.
“We have a little Hobbit house with a living earth roof which is a cave one day, a dragon's den the next, or a princess castle,” says Cushla.
“There is no set use and the children can use their imagination.”
The Katikati Environmental Expo is at the Katikati War Memorial Hall from 10am-3pm on Saturday, March 17.
The event is a collaboration between Envirohub Bay of Plenty, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the EnviroKatikati Charitable Trust, Katikati Taiao, as part of Sustainable Backyards 2018.
It will provide a chance to buy products geared towards sustainable lifestyles, see what local conservation groups are up to and join guest speakers in discussions about local environmental issues.
Uretara Estuary Managers will be giving guided tours of the estuary and people will have an opportunity to make a re-usable boomerang shopping bag.
The expo will include youth games, contests, activities and school projects.