Sprouting new skills in the garden

Kids getting stuck in at the therapy garden down at the Historic Village. Photo: Bob Tulloch.

Tauranga kids are growing confidence in the garden while giving back to the community at The Historic Village.

‘Your Garden: Children's Therapy Garden’ started three years ago when Jo Easterby and Jessica Hubbard saw a need to fill for neurodiverse children such as those with autism, ADHD or dyslexia.

As women both working in education, Jo says they were finding a lot of neurodiverse children were not accessing funding for extra support.

“They were just kind of flying under the radar and not fitting into the normal school programme but with no help around not being able to access all [the funding].”

Success in the garden 

This is when the idea of a children’s therapy garden sprouted.

“Jess and I know that horticulture therapy is used widely in the mental health system through prisons, schools and old folk homes, so we thought we need a medium for children to get out of the classroom and we’ve made a programme ourselves.”

Jo says in the garden children are “getting their own learning, getting their own successes, whereas sometimes they don’t seem to gain any successes in the classroom”.

Tucked away at the Historic Village, Jo says children get a garden bed, design it, plan what they will plant and figure out how things will grow.

“It’s a real problem solving programme and kids are learning a lot of social skills.

"We find a lot of these kids struggle socially in terms of working in groups, confidence and independence, asking for help, that kind of thing.

“When you put them in a small group it gives them a chance to feel confident, ask for help or work as a team – knowing they’re not going to be knocked down which is awesome.

 “We’ve had some really good feedback from both schools and parents of how the children have been able to go from the garden back to school and use their skills.”

Jessica Hubbard and Jo Easterby of ‘Your Garden: Children's Therapy Garden. Photo: Bob Tulloch.

Serving community needs 

Not only is the garden helping the children nurture important social skills, it is also teaching them about empathy and other’s needs.

The therapy garden has a community bed with produce solely for the community that Jo, Jess and the children take to food charity – Good Neighbour.

 “The kids are getting an idea of a crossover there. It’s not just for them to learn.

"They are actually producing something that’s going to the wider community, and it’s actually going to help them understand there are other people with needs out there.”

So far the 30-40 children have benefited from the garden.

The programme runs in school hours for a full year, starting in February. 

Jo and Jess meet with a school’s learning support coordinator to find out which children will benefit most from the garden programme.

 “We go in and we discuss the criteria of the children that we’d like to be at the garden – so those that don’t receive the funding, or don’t have a teacher aide or any support with how they’re faring at school.”

Jo and Jess run the garden free of charge and are in the process of becoming a registered charity to access more funding.

“It has been a charity-based project and it will remain a charity-based project, for as long as we can make it run.”

Learn more about ‘Your Garden: Children’s Therapy Garden’ at: https://www.facebook.com/yourgardentauranga

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