Young Gardeners: High praise for green fingers
By: Web Editor
Gardener and tutor John Cavill and his team of willing students have been busy on the school plot this month in preparation for a visit from the Ofsted inspector…
The time that all schools must dread came around recently at the John Whitgift Academy in Grimsby… the Ofsted inspection. It just so happened that one of the inspection days fell on a Wednesday, the day when I open the kitchen garden gates and run the gardening project.
One of the inspectors came in to talk to the students and Daniel ‘Green Fingers’ told him all about the previous year, the fruit and vegetables we had been growing and the fact that he takes his knowledge home with him. Following the inspection I was very pleased to see that within the report the kitchen garden project has its own mention and this is what it says:
“The curriculum provides numerous opportunities for work-related learning and various additional activities support the students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. For example, a kitchen garden project allows students to work closely with a local employer. The project has received plaudits from a national gardening media celebrity and features regularly in commercial publications. Involvement in the project contributes significantly to improved attitudes to learning among the students taking part. One told an inspector, modestly but clearly with a sense of pride and satisfaction, how the skills learned had been useful on the family allotment. It was apparent that the experience had enhanced the family bond.”
I am so pleased as this not only shows John Whitgift Academy’s commitment to helping the students develop outside the classroom, but will also encourage other schools to develop the same or similar outside projects knowing that bodies like Ofsted recognise the importance of bringing learning to life outside the classroom.
New goodies to try
A box of goodies arrived safely from Rootgrow and having read the packets the students were itching to give it a go. Rootgrow contains a naturally occurring beneficial fungus that can help plants to absorb nutrients more effectively by attaching to the roots and in effect, acting as a much enlarged secondary root system. In return the plant supplies the fungus with carbon and sugars and the relationship lasts for the life of the plant, so only one application is needed.
The students love to experiment and this new arrival gave them all that opportunity. The Rootgrow itself looks like small pieces of chalk or clay and the students were soon adding it to everything to see what would happen. Of course we won’t see the results until it’s time to harvest our crops, but the students will be watching closely to see how everything grows.
Mashing it up
Last year we ran the project throughout the year and did everything the same as it would be done on an allotment, rows of fruit and vegetables, sticking to the sowing times and everything in order. This year the students have asked me if they can mix things up, plant at the wrong times, plant in shapes, stripes and groups. Well really it’s their kitchen garden so they have set off on a new venture of (almost) anything goes! It’s going to be an interesting year, but for me what is most important is that the students have gained a massive amount of growing confidence.
Through the project they know how things like radish, potatoes and beans grow, what it takes to grow them and so much is their confidence that they are willing to mix the tried and tested methods up a little to be different. I will be there every step of the way to make sure it doesn’t get too silly, but I love the fact that the project has given them the confidence to experiment.
The truth smells!
One thing that made me laugh this month was chicken manure. Some of the students last year loved the smell; some thought it smelt like breakfast cereal – others really hated it. Chloe wasn’t in the project last year and after spreading a few handfuls on her raised bed she decided to read the label to see what it was she was using. When she read the words ‘chicken manure’ on the label she really did take a dislike to our large tub and I got a great picture of her saying “eeew!”
Raising the stakes
Beans always add more interest to the project, one part of this is pushing the bamboo canes through our Figo cane connectors and setting the canes in place. As a garden designer I know this adds instant height and structure to the garden and Ryan was keen to help. These are easy for any school to use, just push the cane through the rubber connector and then push the other end into the soil as far as it will go (in our case 25cm/10in until it hits the concrete). Then, well normally two beans would be planted around the cane in the soil, but in the case of Ryan we have three of different colours just to see how they will grow.
Travis is relatively new to the project but is keen to learn how to grow all sorts of different vegetables even if he is not keen on eating them himself (yet). Beetroot seems fascinating so we now have about five different varieties planted between the potatoes. I say about, as a valuable lesson was learned to save the packets and mark where the beetroot were sown, but in our random project this year, I have a strange feeling that all sorts will be growing in lots of different areas.
Last but not least Chloe O has been able to join us in the project again. You may remember Chloe doing a wheelchair check of all the beds in the beginning to ensure the whole project is wheelchair friendly. Although Chloe is in a wheelchair she does walk around the project, sits in the beds and loves to get her hands as muddy as possible. Chloe with the help of the camera shy Miss Thornton took all the packets of flower seeds, sunflowers and more and added them all to the edges of the raised beds all over the garden. After asking Chloe what went where she replied in her normal very cheerful voice “I don’t know!” so again like with the vegetables we now have an abundance of flowers planted somewhere in the kitchen garden project, but where, no one is quite sure!
Last but not least this month, always when I receive emails arising from the features in KG, people comment about how much fun the students seem to be having. Well this month I have included a few photos of students with bags of runner beans that they tell me look like jewellery so they posed using them as earrings. It’s always fun at school to be relaxed and learn at the same time and this project aims to do just that!
John Whitgift Academy garden project
At John Whitgift Academy the Inspiring Communities Government Fund made it possible for the school to team up with John Cavill to design and build the garden and help educate the children through gardening. It aims to lift the aspirations of all the children in the school through learning outdoors.
Follow progress each month in KG and you can also log on to John Cavill’s website at www.simplygardening.co.uk/whitgift.html to view the latest information.
If you have a school project you’d like us to feature in KG simply contact editor Steve Ott at email@example.com
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