Students are urged to get their hands dirty with a few competitions currently open for green-fingered and sustainable schools.

Grow Your Own

The ‘Grow Your Own’ edible garden competition for primary and intermediate schools, enviro’ groups and ag’ clubs closes on Friday 23 March so schools will need to get in quick to get their hands on the $500 worth of garden centre vouchers.

The competition is run by Soil, Food & Society, the not-for-profit organisation of a fledgling science teaching tool based around the story of where our food comes from.

Project manager, Ralph Springett, says having an edible garden is a fantastic hands-on resource for students with tremendous scope for learning about the origin of food.

“Planting veggies and tending a garden also generates discussion around soil, soil health and nutrients – and food production on a larger scale. It also encourages students to think about the importance of science, agriculture and horticulture in our society.

“We hope this competition attracts entries from across the country – from schools and agricultural groups who are keen to get started with a garden, to those who need some more funds and materials to keep their garden going.”

Soil, Food & Society has also released an online teaching resource that explores three interconnected areas – plants are earth’s engine; our food garden; and the chain in my lunchbox. It offers teachers lesson plans that are straightforward and easy to follow. Integrated with the NZ Curriculum, the teaching resourcing is tailored to suit Years 5-6, 6-7 and 7-8.

Energising Young Minds competition

Genesis Energy has launched a new competition aimed at making STEM subjects come alive for students by getting them thinking about the science behind electricity generation. There are $50,000 in prizes, enabling the winning schools to purchase edu-tech gear including 3D printers, virtual reality goggles and robotics kits.

Tahatai Coast School students Daniel and Emily had a go at one of the competition activities – turning an old pizza box into a solar oven.

“It’s amazing to think we could make s’mores basically from a pizza box, some tin foil and the sun,” says nine-year-old Daniel.

The competition opened earlier this month and to make the shortlist schools need to campaign for votes from their local community. Voting closes 2 April and the winners will be announced 30 April.

NZ Young Farmers launch teaching resources

A range of new teaching resources are giving secondary school students a taste of the opportunities and challenges facing New Zealand’s food producers.

The engaging material is helping teachers inject “real-world examples” into their maths, English, business studies, science, technology and economics classes.

“More than 160 secondary schools have already registered to download the free resources, which is exciting,” said Leeann Morgan, who heads the educational engagement unit at NZ Young Farmers.

One of the NZQA-accredited internal assessments provides Year 12 maths students with a large database of birth and growth data from two separate flocks of sheep for statistical analysis.

“The junior physics unit looks at technology and innovation and advances in everything from tractors, to quad bikes and even drench guns,” said Leeann.

“It’s really making their learning come alive and making it meaningful.”

The resources, which have been written and trialled by teachers under contract to CORE Education, were developed with funding from the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).

There are four cross-curricular junior school resources and three internal achievement standards in maths, english and science for Year 11-12 students.

Teachers can instantly download the learning material and create a log in.

“Once they’ve downloaded the resources, the NZ Young Farmers field team is available to help answer any questions or arrange guest speakers,” said Leeann.

“For example, one of the introductory genetics units is about predicting progeny. We can help organise a farmer to visit the school with a small pen of sheep, or for the class to visit a sheep or beef farm.”

Garden to Table

The nationwide food education programme Garden to Table is also expanding, recently announcing its launch in the Bay of Plenty region.

Already part of the curriculum at 115 schools throughout the country, Garden to Table works by teaching children necessary life skills through practical, hands-on, child-centric classes. Students cook delicious nutritious meals every week, where they learn how grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh food.

Schools have an option of the online programme and a more intensive, facilitated version, where they receive significant support and training from programme coordinators and trainers.

Tauranga’s Gate Pa School is one of the new schools to join and principal Richard Inder says parents and members of the community have been incredibly generous and supportive of the initiative, which is already popular with students.

“We have substantial vegetable gardens on the school grounds and are pleased the children will be able to benefit by learning gardening and cooking skills, which will set them up for a healthy lifestyle in the future,” says Inder.

Oral Care Recycling Project

Students at Maungawhau School know all about sustainability success. The Auckland school was among five New Zealand schools to win prizes in the national Colgate Better World Recycling Project, which encouraged people to collect and recycle their oral care waste and raise funds for their nominated school or charity. The initiative is an ongoing collaboration between Colgate and Terracycle.

Joanna Simpson from Maungawhau School said the students, who managed the programme themselves, plan to try and get more companies to improve their recycling solutions. The school is considering using the recycled garden bed as a junior school garden, Maori medicine garden or a nursery for native plants.

More information

Entry to the Grow Your Own competition is via the free-to-use teaching resource,

Genesis Energy has provided free resources and more information on its School-gen website:

NZ Young Farmers teaching resources can be accessed at

To learn more about Garden to Table or enquire about it at your school, visit

Oral Care Recycling Programme: Collectors earn NZ$0.02 per item for funding towards their nominated school or charity. For more information about the Oral Care Recycling Programme, visit  


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