Staff at Shannon School were delighted to hear their funding application to Trees That Count - a charity that brings together businesses and communities with the vision of planting 200 million native trees nationwide – was successful.

As part of their strong focus on conservation and the environment, the school plans to create a native forest in part of their grounds, next to the playground.

Shannon School's Enviroschools leader, Adam McCallum, asked the community via the school's Facebook page which trees they wanted to plant from a list of trees native to the area.

Options include kānuka, kōwhai, titoki, tarata (lemonwood), rangiora, putaputaweta, mānuka, manatu, makomako and whauwhaupaku. Their ultimate vision is to have a nature play area among the trees and to watch them grown into a full forest that attracts native fauna back to the area.

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The criteria for the trees is that they once grew in the area, must grow to at least 4m in height, will bring in native wildlife and have medicinal benefits.

Families invited to sponsor a mature tree
The trees being donated through the Trees That Count scheme are only about a year old, so to help the forest grow quickly the school is looking for sponsors for more mature trees which are already about a metre high.

Ex-pupils, businesses, community members and groups are being asked to sponsor a tree for the native forest. Part of the sponsorship cost will be to get a plaque engraved with the sponsor's name to be placed with the tree in perpetuity.

After a blessing by local kaumātua, 50 native trees and 36 emerald gem flax were planted by pupils, their families, staff and other community volunteers just before the school broke for the school holidays.

Each of the 50 trees donated by Trees That Count will have at least one current pupil as its guardian, to water and care for it.

Shannon School pupils with some of the produce from their vegetable garden.
Shannon School pupils with some of the produce from their vegetable garden.

Growing experience

Shannon School has provided learning experiences for its pupils in growing food for some years. With the help of renowned garden expert Kath Irvine and local volunteers, a fruit and vegetable garden has been created on the grounds.

So many children are keen to work in the garden, they have to be staggered to help on different days.

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Crops are used to feed the children, and to enhance their numeracy skills. They use pretend money to purchase the crops. In March, $50 worth of cherry tomatoes was harvested from the patch.

In future, the school is looking to plant more fruit trees and bushes and would greatly appreciate any donations to help achieve their vision of a fruit forest to feed the community.

Shannon School became an Enviroschool in the last year. Principal Murray Powell said the school has always had an environmentally responsible philosophy.

The school has compost bins, worm farms and recycles everything. Waste to landfill has reduced from 10 skips a year to just two. The school had been a "water only" school for some time.

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