Margaret River Primary School is proudly a member of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation which now has a membership in excess of 800 schools across Australia. We first became interested in bringing the core philosophy of the foundation to our school back in 2009 when we established a north facing garden adjacent to our transportable classrooms. Over time we gained the grants and funds from fundraising events and donations which allowed us to grow the concept to its present position. We have been able to implement a full kitchen garden program since the establishment of a fully functional kitchen in early 2012. The kitchen was designed to meet the needs of our students taking into consideration the limitations faced in converting a run-down transportable classroom into an ergonomic and appealing work space for up to 32 students at a time.
One of the core philosophies of the foundation is the belief that, “the best way to encourage children to choose food that is healthy is to engage them in fun, hands-on experiences in growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing such food from the earliest possible age”.
At Margaret River Primary School we introduce this approach to our Year 4 and Year 5 students each year with both year groups completing garden and kitchen lessons in a fortnightly rotating program. For instance, on any week one year level will be immersed in garden lessons while the other year group would have kitchen time. Typically classes complete a 45 minute garden lesson in one week and a 90 minute kitchen lesson in the other. We have 8 classes in the program which reaches over 220 students and their teachers.
We are very fortunate to have on our staff very passionate and skillful kitchen and garden specialists who present a fantastic opportunity for our students to be immersed in growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing good wholesome and tasty food. They are introduced to the many skills associated with garden and kitchen practices where positive and life-long attitudes about living a healthy lifestyle are developed.
In 2016, our Garden Specialists are Susie Ormonde and Ange Savic-Packer. Our Kitchen Specialist is Sarah Goodwin and the Program Coordinator is Geoff McLeod. Susie and Geoff started the program from the beginning in 2009.
We are very proud of our program at Margaret River Primary School and are grateful for the wonderful community support that we have received that has allowed us to provide excellent learning facilities and programs. We welcome parent and community volunteers into our school to assist our specialists in the delivery of their programs and to be sound mentors and role models for our students.
To meet the challenges faced in maintaining the facilities and delivering quality learning experiences to our students, we encourage parents and the wider community to continue to support our fundraising efforts and help out with the occasional busy bee drives to assist with labour intensive tasks. Also, at the beginning of each year, parents of the participating students are given the opportunity to make a small donation to the program to help cover the costs of the many consumable materials and ingredients.
In summary, the SAKGF program provides for our students opportunities to explore where real food comes from and the importance of caring for our environment. Students are able to establish important skills in preparing quality food and developing healthy attitudes. Skills and attitudes for life-long learning are fostered through ‘hands on’ activities that are interactive and motivating. It is a very valuable and worthwhile program.
Written by Mr Geoff McLeod, Kitchen Garden Coordinator