Goodstart Camira in Queensland has a Wellness Garden.
It began as a kitchen garden to support healthy eating and promote healthy recipes. The initial idea to develop the underutilised, existing garden was staff initiated and when the proposal was presented to the families within the service community there was a great response, resulting in a working bee, where the garden was expanded and improved.
The garden has now become a focal point for the whole service community. It's no longer just about healthy eating but has become a place for both children and adults. The produce is shared with families and they sometimes take home lettuce, oregano or strawberries, often ringing in to see what's available.
The garden is more than a platform to promote healthy eating – it's a social place where families can meet and chat; a place where children and families bond and develop and sustain relationships. Children tell their parents on the way out, ‘Come and look at the flowers today!’
Be You Professional Learning
Moving to Be You Professional Learning has been a natural progression for this service and its garden of wellness will continue to grow and thrive. The educators have already explored the website and completed their first Be You National Check-In. The Be You website is seen as a safe site with useful links to refer families.
Supporting mental health and wellbeing
The garden is an integral part of supporting mental health and wellbeing in this community. It's a calming place – somewhere for refreshing and rejuvenating. Children regularly ask to go out to the garden. Sometimes they plant flower seeds or popcorn kernels to see the growth cycle, or they just enjoy the garden, spend time watering the plants or watch the butterflies.
Adults, children, educators and families go to see and smell the flowers. The garden has become a positive relaxing space where children want to go.
With the Professional Learning supporting the educators in the centre, the use of words such as 'wellbeing' and 'relaxing' are being introduced to the children to describe mental health. There are conversations around how having a safe place and being able to relax is beneficial for mental health. This is also being passed on to the families.
The involvement in Professional Learning led the director and educational leader to develop a resource folder that was available to parents. They wanted to share what was happening in supporting positive mental health and wellbeing in the centre, which they did through their newsletters and via Storypark, an online platform that documents and supports children’s learning. The centre’s monthly goals with their Quality Improvement Plan are shared with the whole learning community, along with the benefits and importance of engaging with Professional Learning to promote positive mental health for everyone.
There is a sign in the garden for everyone which reads: 'We think we are nurturing our garden but of course it is really our garden that is nurturing us.'
The Wellness Garden plays an integral part in the mental health and wellbeing of this service community.