Arden Anglican School’s Community Garden was officially opened on Friday 28th July, 2017 at the Junior School campus.
The garden was instigated by a committed group of parents and staff including Mrs Jackie Isenegger, Director of Development, who is also a parent at the School. She was inspired to create the space based on her own precious experience of a much loved ‘Ag Plot’ as a student. Mrs Isenegger shared: “One of my favourite memories of high school was spending time in the Ag Plot with my Agriculture Teacher, Mr Peter Rutherford, and my like-minded friends. The area offered a safe place where students and staff could come together to work on interesting projects, take care of the animals and grow. It was a stage of our lives where some of us were dealing with parents divorcing or the death of a parent and we had the space and freedom to learn and grow and fail safely.” The chain has now come full circle with Mr Rutherford being the guest speaker at Arden’s own community garden opening.
Mr Rutherford, an Ecologist at Kimbriki, gave an educational and humorous speech. He shared that he was very moved to see Arden’s Community Garden and was impressed by the amazing energy and creative use of the space and partnerships which had been created. He said that people have an innate need to get back to the earth and to get their hands into dirt, and that this is especially important and healthy for children living in cities. So community gardens have an important role both practically as gardens, but also as healing spaces. Mr Rutherford then cut the ribbon to declare the Garden officially opened. He also cut the beautiful watering can cake made by an Arden parent, Mrs Carmen Lau.
During the opening, Garden Club members recognised the wonderful support they have received from staff, parent and grandparent volunteers who have generously shared their time and expertise. Community partnerships have also been a special part of this project, with Bunnings stores (including Carlingford, Rydalmere, Thornleigh, and Artarmon) providing both staff volunteer and practical support. The garden was made possible through a donation from the School’s Parents & Friends’ Association. Mrs Nicola MacGee, P&F President shared: “The P&F are thrilled to have been involved in this project. It has been wonderful to see the children engaging with nature and sharing their excitement with us all. The support of Arden’s enthusiastic staff has created a valuable hands-on learning opportunity for the students.”
During the Opening, the Rob Hogg memorial garden bench was unveiled by his wife, Mrs Jennifer Hogg. Mr Robert Hogg, was Arden’s dedicated and much loved Business Manager from 2003 – 2015. The bench was a gift from the School as a memorial to “a man who really cared”.
The delight and exuberance of the Garden Club members was evident at the Opening as was their pride in the garden they have created. Liam Hantos (Year 6) shared: “I like seeing new people come every week and sharing and enjoying our handiwork.” Charlotte Slade-Smith (Year 6) said: “The garden is an amazing learning environment where everyone gets to contribute to the environment. It is a relaxing area – a really nice place to hang out and learn how to plant and grow fruit and vegies.” Daniel Mawston (Year 6) felt that the garden was important not only because of the plants but because of the friendships made, which, like the plants, are well nurtured in the garden. Phoenix Delmont-Williams (Year 6) liked the fact that students were now able to harvest the produce of the garden and was excited about being able to sell produce at Arden’s Fair which will be held on 2nd September, 2017. Charlotte Slade-Smith summarised the benefits of the garden well when she commented: “This beautiful new garden is not only an exciting learning environment but a haven for many.”
Enthusiastic Garden Club members from Arden’s Junior School campus began planting in the garden on 8th May, 2017. Since then they have enjoyed seeing (and tasting!) the fruit of their labours and the continued evolution of the garden.
According to Mrs Isenegger, “The garden provides an opportunity for children to learn in a hands-on and tactile way. This exciting learning environment is a haven for all and provides opportunities for leadership, creativity and initiative as children discover they can make a difference in their own way. The experience will help our students to learn responsibility and equip them with constructive life skills to take home to their own gardens. We are hoping our students will better understand where their food comes from, appreciate the work our Australian farmers do on our behalf and realise that not everything comes from a supermarket wrapped in plastic.”