Growing together by Francis Smith

14th September 2017

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Why growing fruit and veg with Early Years Pupils is such an enriching experience

My principle ambition for Studio Cultivate’s Early Years education scheme is to encourage pupils to develop a love for outdoor spaces and the animals and plants that inhabit them.  I have found that one of the best ways of doing this is to help schools create edible gardens. Edible gardens bring incredible life and meaning to any outdoor space, but most importantly they provide an exciting and broad platform for learning.

The following article outlines how a school’s year of garden creation and learning could unfold.

Spring is a time of great garden activity. Pupils can refine their motor skills with the sowing of tiny sleeping seeds. Further delicacy will be needed once seeds have germinated, as the seedlings will require transplanting from seed pot to garden. Pupils will swiftly take ownership of individual plants and will, therefore, be very receptive to the idea of nurturing their growing garden.

By mid summer your plants should be hitting maturity and bringing colours and scents to your school’s outdoor space. This is a fantastic time for pupils to observe the behaviour of plants but also the animal life the plants attract. Let the pupils’ observations be the catalyst for many short and snappy garden based lessons. The harvesting of your edible garden is a huge amount of fun too.

All manner of exciting, healthy and simple dishes can be created. You will be amazed at what pupils will be prepared to sample!

Autumn will trigger the end for many of your garden’s edible plants. If you have space though it is certainly worth growing at least one apple or pear tree and some raspberries. These will elongate your harvest period and create further opportunity for pupils to explore seasonal change.

Winter is a time of dormancy and relative quiet, particularly in edible gardens. It is, however, an important time for garden replenishment. Edible plants are hungry, and will quickly exhaust the soil. Pupils can help in the replacement/ topping up of their garden’s soil and in doing so investigate soil textures, contents, and its diverse animal life.

An edible garden can bring many benefits to your school. On a cosmetic level, plants can transform a space, creating a sense of vibrancy, but also calm. Most importantly though, your garden can become a unique learning context, created by pupils. Their sense of ownership and innate curiosity will provide you with the opportunity to incrementally stack layers of learning, most of which has been self- instigated as pupils observe and participate in their garden’s growth.

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