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Preparing children for the future . . . Pupils from St Patrick's School in Bryndwr, Christchurch, have a go at using the prototype Electric Garden kit with Cara Tipping Smith. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

An innovative project aims to connect children in North Otago schools with nature and technology.

In just over a week, the Electric Garden programme will be officially launched to the public.

The programme will deliver two terms of supported lesson plans that teach the new digital technologies curriculum through gardening.

Using electronic kits, pupils can install wireless sensors in their school garden and monitor readings of their crops through an online cloud.

The purpose of the programme is to teach children computer coding through gardening, and develop gardening knowledge through coding.

The pilot programme is being trialled in 70 schools across Otago and Canterbury.

It has received so much support that Spark, Microsoft Philanthropies and Verizon Connect have provided it with $250,000 in funding.

The idea was the brainchild of Gloria Hurst and Michael Trengrove – two former pupils of Papakaio School.

While cleaning up the school grounds for the school’s 150th jubilee last year, Mrs Hurst and several pupils stumbled on a “magical” metal box that had supposedly been on the grounds for the past 150 years.

Written on the back of the map were the words: “Sami The Wizard, Papakaio Gully, 1867”.

The message that inspired the programme was “Play in nature, ’tis contagious and free, nature is for everyone, and kindness is key”.

Mr Trengrove said he was excited about the future of the project.

“We’re currently working on making this available for every school in the country during term two next year,” he said.

Once the programme was available to every school in New Zealand, the plan was to take it to schools overseas.

Business Hive owner Cara Tipping Smith, who is also involved in the programme, believed it would be able to teach children skills needed for both the natural and digital world.

“This is so exciting, in my mind, because it really is the bringing together of two worlds, and both of them are so vital.

“It has been so well polished that it has got a really clear focus – it’s exciting because it’s different and fun.”

Ms Tipping-Smith said she dreamed of seeing the programme implemented in schools across the world.

“The intent is to roll it out – and who knows how far that will go? I’d like to see someone in Argentina or something growing giant pumpkins with the electric garden in schools.”

The launch of the programme will be at 10.30am on Tuesday, November 27 at the Business Hive, and will be attended by representatives of Microsoft, Spark and Verizon Connect.