The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Creating a school garden

How can a school garden contribute to a child’s development? Elizabeth Holmes finds out why the school garden at Castle Carrock is so important.

Whether you’re green fingered or not, the benefits of gardening are well rehearsed. According to research there are ‘substantial human health benefits’ to be derived from time spent in a garden.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening seeks to give children gardening opportunities not only to boost their skills, but also to contribute to their overall development. It cites numerous direct benefits of gardening for children including:

  • improving physical and mental wellbeing
  • building life skills (such as confidence, teamwork and communication)
  • enhancing literacy, numeracy and oracy
  • encouraging a healthy lifestyle
  • enriching the entire curriculum including science, maths, art and languages
  • enhancing learning about the environment and sustainability
  • giving young people an affinity with their surroundings and an enhanced sense of responsibility.

Rebecca Stacey is headteacher of Castle Carrock School, a village primary on the edge of the north Pennines in Cumbria, and a keen advocate of the benefits of school gardens. ‘Our garden is an integral part of the school,’ Rebecca says. ‘The class teachers plan for its use in curriculum time and are each responsible for a section of it, namely their own raised bed.

‘We have a fire pit and seating, as well as a willow section and a greenhouse, and the garden is used all year round. Our early years children recently held a fire in there and toasted marshmallows, and in science week last year we designed and built bug hotels.’

Community working

The garden at Castle Carrock School is cherished by all and that means a steady supply of help in looking after it. ‘It is maintained by the whole community,’ Rebecca says. ‘In the winter we hold a clean-up session where parents and friends will help clear it out and prepare it for the school year. It’s all very informal and we rely completely on people to support!’

School gardening is not all about the adults, however. At Castle Carrock, the pupils pretty much run it. ‘They certainly know more about it than I do,’ Rebecca says. ‘We have a loose ‘gardening club’ who will meet at lunchtimes with an adult support, usually myself, to sort out whatever needs doing.

‘We grow food that we can use in the school kitchen and we also entered the ‘Cumbria in Bloom’ competition last year. We keep an annual scrapbook so we remember what we have been doing, and what we want to do next!’

The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has been designed to inspire and support schools in providing gardening opportunities for children. When you register, which is free of charge, you will receive a welcome pack containing plant labels, stickers, posters and seeds. The downloadable resources will get you started and help you to sustain your garden. You’ll also have access to what other schools are doing to make their gardens sustainable over time.

Learning in the outdoor classroom offers myriad benefits to teachers and pupils alike. It has the potential to enhance a knowledge-rich curriculum and gives children the opportunity to embed a positive attitude towards lifelong scholarship through working with adults in the spirit of mutual responsibility and learning together. If there’s any possibility of developing a school garden, it just might be the best thing your school ever did!

Take action

  • Take a look at the Ecosia search engine which uses profits to plant trees!
  • Garden Organic is a charity promoting the ideas around organic gardening. It provides information on growing at school as well as classroom resources and courses for school professionals.
  • Countryside Classroom is described as a ‘single destination where teachers can find and access resources, places to visit and people to ask that will support their teaching about food, farming and the natural environment’.
  • Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Learn, Garden and Reflect with Cornell Garden-Based Learning seeks to provide educators with research-based gardening resources.

You can contact Rebecca Stacey on Twitter (@bekblayton) to find out more about the garden at Castle Carrock. 
 

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