Greening Gaia

‘One alone is no help,

But rather he who unites with others at the right moment.’


When I joined Gaia as a kindergarten teacher at the beginning of 2010, I felt privileged to be part of such a culturally and socio-economically diverse community. I felt blessed to be in the midst of a big city and yet be situated on the Oude Molen Eco Estate where one can walk on the greenbelt and see a variety of river birds. It is a place where you can ride horses, see chickens scratching in the earth, vegetables growing and have a wonderful view of the mountains.  I also experienced the warmth of Gaia and the sound of joy and laughter coming from the children. I was attracted to Gaia for it is a community where the Rainbow Nation can continue to grow, following the legacy of our papa, Nelson Mandela.

But where were the beautiful playgrounds for our children? My wish for beautiful gardens at school was born. My kindergarten had become a soccer runway with the children racing up and down as the Soccer World Cup was hosted in our country. I made a humble beginning and planted some Aloes, an Asclepia fruiticosa (milkweed) and Felicias. The Asclepia is the host plant to the African Monarch Butterfly and has brought the children the magical experience of the whole breeding cycle ever since. The striking caterpillars have been a constant source of interest.

In 2011, the first major greening initiative of Gaia began under the guidance of a new parent, Clare, (mother of Rowan and Emma) who is a Horticulturalist specializing in creating indigenous gardens. The first project was to tackle the playgroup garden which consisted of a layer of sandy soil covering the old parking lot tarmac. After three days of jack hammering, rubble removal and planting, the playgroup was transformed into the garden it is now, shaded by some lovely trees.

In 2012 my garden was redesigned. There was a big fundraising drive to raise the necessary funds and with a team of parents we transformed this garden too. Milly May, the pet pig was moved away and this gave some extra space. At this time Heather organized funding from De Freunde for upgrading the jungle gyms and the new play equipment was a great improvement to all the playgrounds. In 2013 the inner courtyard garden, where the class one and pre-primary children play, was created.

Last year the upper campus garden was landscaped and also enclosed by a lovely wooden fence supplied at cost by Forest Creations. At this stage Gaia expanded its ground staff so that what had been planted could be cared for. I’d like to thank Neo, Lindele and Andile for their valuable contribution to Gaia. Clare continues to guide the gardening team and the latest project has been to build compost heaps.

What has been remarkable is to look back at the parental input over the years. To all the parents who have been part of the ‘Greening of Gaia’, our thanks to you for your energy, generosity and hard work. Together we have achieved a lot.

Our project for 2015 awaits us and that is to give some much-needed attention to the lower primary playground. We are planning to tackle this project next term and once again welcome parental participation. We will keep you informed.

Warm autumn greetings,

Rowena Bell

Kindergarten teacher