27 May 2022

World first forest pre-school set to open in Manurewa

From Afternoons, 1:30 pm on 27 May 2022

A world-first forest preschool set among native bush is about to open in Manurewa.

Gaia Earth Forest Preschool has been built in a native forest in Manurewa.

Gaia Earth Forest Preschool has been built in a native forest in Manurewa. Photo: Facebook / Gaia Earth Forest Preschool

The mission to create Gaia (Earth) Forest Preschool began in 2019 but the project went "down a spiral that nobody had imagined" because of the pandemic.

"The dream was effectively shattered," Chrysalis founder, Dr Darius Singh told Afternoons.

Now, the preschool is set to open next month.

"The concept is to really use nature as much as we can. 

"There's an approach to design called Biomimicry where you really look towards nature for inspiration to solve our modern day problems so our building is very much taken from that concept to first of all be leaf-shaped, have solar panels to power it...rainwater recycling...heated floors..."

The school is in a 10,000 square metre native forest in Hill Park, Manurewa.

Singh says there are only six ancient native forests left in Auckland which means he feels a big sense of responsibility.

"We've just stumbled on this magical place that we kind of felt very responsible to do good and to make this the best thing we could possibly make it and then to share it with the community."

They've placed twenty sculptures throughout the forest, along nature trails.

"...It can make you completely excited to discover and want to just keep discovering. The whole premise of this is to just have that curiosity burning in a child's mind and in their hearts and soul.

"A curious child will obviously be engaged more and will absorb better and learn more and just really really take in their environment."

One-fifth of enrollments are part of a scholarship programme.

"We've got a catch phrase that children should learn from nature, not just about it. Nature's not in a book and it's not in some documentary programme, you really have to absorb it, you have to be immersed in it and so this is what we're trying to achieve here as well, is to make sure we've got the environment really for our children to capture something that is rapidly disappearing unfortunately."