Testing for Whangaroa’s new edible playground is underway, unearthing budding kaitiaki in the rohe.
Healthy Families Far North are trialing concepts around an outside classroom - a space where whānau can connect with the environment by way of māra kai and māra hūpara.
After months of research, workshops and translating community ideas into a concept plan, different stations were set up behind the Kāeo library for whānau and tamariki to interact with and explore, including a make-shift playground made from logs and sticks, a potting and painting station, weeding and more.
Lead Systems Innovator Paul Condron said understanding te taiao and how whānau might connect with the environment is important to see what works and what doesn’t moving forward.
“This kaupapa has been in the works for two years now and while it’s been quite a journey, we need to make sure we get this right and it’s what the community wants,” he said.
“So what we’ve done is we’ve incorporated all the important aspects that whānau have identified and we’re exploring different spaces, ideas and concepts where they can interact with nature by means of kai or play.”
“From here we can see what’s working, what’s not... it’s about trial and error, and when we can see people are taking interest, showing up or even talking about it, then we know we’re on the right track.”
He can’t quite comprehend what’s going on or where he’s going, but he’s determined to reach the top, and it’s not long before the three-year-old boy quickly finds his hands in some gardening gloves, scooping soil and planting seedlings into a small pot.
He can’t read or write just yet so he’s not following the step-by-step instructions, but he instinctively knows what to do. As he delicately waters his “baby carrots,” he asks “Can I cook them now?”
While he’s missed a few steps from garden to plate, Condron believes it’s the tamariki who will help lead the way, bridging the disconnect whānau have with māra kai.
“We had a number of stations set up on the day, but the potting station was probably the biggest highlight for the children that came through with their whānau.”
“When we first kicked this off we asked the question: ‘How might we create a secure and sustainable food system for future generations of Whangaroa?’ and watching these young kids engage so naturally with the environment shows there’s an opportunity for learning and creating healthy relationships with fresh kai through play.”
Kotahi karihi nāna ko te wao tapu nui a Tāne. The forests of Tāne were created from one kernel.
“To be honest I think we found more about what doesn’t work on the day than what does, but for me there was a sense of belief that we can see a path forward with it, and we’re one step closer to seeing the edible playground come to life,” he said.
“What we’ll do now is we’ll take what we know works and test that in other spaces. We might try testing on different days, times or invite local kindergartens to come down and test ideas around it. It’s all part of the process and one we as a community are determined to get right so that we’re not seeing our whānau in the same position they were in during those difficult times.”
Healthy Families Far North will continue to work alongside community leaders and whānau, with more testing days organised in coming weeks.