We are very lucky to have a safe, enclosed area for gardening at Dovecote. It’s known as “The secret garden”, which the children find funny because they say it’s not a secret at all because it can be seen from corridors, classrooms and offices! Mrs Mitchell, who is a specialist in “social and therapeutic gardening” works with groups of children in the secret garden, twice a week, year-round. The children engage in all aspects of gardening, here are just some examples:
- Digging and raking the soil to prepare for planting
- Sowing seeds in pots and in the ground
- Planting bulbs (edible ones like onions and flowers such as daffodils and tulips)
- Harvesting – this includes fruit such as apples, pears, raspberries and strawberries, digging up vegetables and cutting salad leaves.
- Creating and maintaining wildlife habitats.
These are just some of the ways that are used to develop a love and understanding of the environment. Our gardening sessions help to build children’s confidence -many children who find the classroom a challenging environment, thrive outdoors doing practical tasks which in turn help them to really understand how to work well in a team. The garden is often used by class teachers for things like treasure hunts, wildlife spotting activities or a mindfulness sessions, which all take place in the beautiful, calm garden space.
It is believed that benefits of school gardening are:
- Improving physical and mental well being
- Building life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication
- Enriches the entire curriculum from science, maths and geography to art, design and language
- Encourages a better/healthier lifestyle
- Develops a better understanding about the environment and sustainability
- Helps young people engage with their surroundings better and develop a sense of responsibility
Of course, there is lots of lovely produce at the end of all the learning and as much as possible is eaten by the children – they enjoy tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, grapes and peas straight from the plant. During taster sessions children try soups or salads, and food also goes to the school kitchen- apple crumble is a big favourite and everyone loves the first new potatoes.
Our children are very lucky to have our “secret garden”, and we hope to learn from what we see and do in there everyday.