Sunday, 31 May 2020


“Mountain” of bike park hand tools repaired by MBAS horticulture students

By Stephan Bosman

One of the philosophies behind the horticulture courses at Mercury Bay Area School is for students to learn and do.

It’s a philosophy that’s being put to great benefit of the local community and the environment. One of the most recent recipients of the students’ newfound skills and generosity was the Whitianga Bike Park.

“Many people think horticulture is just about growing things,” says Jamie Hutt, the MBAS teacher responsible for delivery of the MBAS NCEA Level 1 and 2 horticulture courses. “That cannot be further from the truth. Propagating, planting and caring for trees and plants are certainly important, but landscaping and caring for equipment is also important. Our NCEA Level 2 students are this term focusing on hand tools and small engines. They’re learning how to properly clean, sharpen and oil hand tools and how to service affect minor repairs to things like lawnmowers and line trimmers.

“We mostly ask school teachers to bring us their tools and equipment to work on, but there just weren’t enough hand tools this year to repair. Fortunately we became aware that the Whitianga Bike Park needed some help and we asked them to bring their hand tools to us.”

The bike park is a large area and a huge amount of ongoing maintenance is required. The maintenance is mostly carried out by volunteers using hand tools. The tools get worn out and break. A few weeks ago, the bike park delivered a lot (the word “mountain” is probably more appropriate) of their tools to the MBAS horticulture students’ maintenance shed on the school campus. The NCEA Level 2 students took to the task with gusto.

“It took about two weeks for the students to conquer the bike park’s tools and the finished product was nothing short of impressive,” says Jamie. “I’m really proud of what the students have achieved. “The tools were al cleaned oiled and sharpened, ready to go for another few years. A spade or two were broken beyond repair, but the students really thought outside the box and repurposed the broken tools into other types of tools that may come in handy at some point in time.”

The number of MBAS horticulture students remains relatively steady. “We have every year around 10 NCEA Level 1 and 10 NCEA Level 2 students,” says Jamie.

The course started at MBAS five years ago when Jamie, who’s also a science teacher, joined MBAS from Raglan Area School. “I taught horticulture while I was in Raglan and thought MBAS would benefit from a similar course,” he says. “Fortunately John Wright, the school principal, agreed with me and I must say the course gets enormous support from both the school and the wider community.

“Among the community projects we’re involved in are native trees in Kuaotunu we’re looking after and the planting and maintenance of trees in the Rings Beach wetlands. From time to time we also get involved in projects on Great Mercury Island and when we grow vegetables, most of the produce gets donated to worthy causes in the community.”

Alicia Herranz is one of the MBAS NCEA Level 2 horticulture students. She’s an international student from California. She says that she chose to attend MBAS for part of her high school studies as the school is offering her opportunities she would never be able to experience back home. “The horticulture course is one such opportunity,” she says. “Not only is it a lot of fun, it’s actually equipping me to pursue a career, should I wish to do so, that I never would have considered before.”


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