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After school club: gardening

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By The Royal Horticultural Society

Promote a love of the outdoors with a hands-on after-school club

A watering can

For the past four years, class teacher and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) member, Nick Hasted, has organised lunchtime and after-school gardening clubs at his school, Hayward Primary in Devon. At present, 18 children regularly take part, all aged between seven and ten years old. The current school garden was inspired by a trip to the Westonbirt Festival of the Garden, and has a large sculptural dragon at the heart of it. Originally built so that the tail of the dragon was the planting space for the garden, the design has had to be expanded to accommodate the club’s popularity. Today the dragon sits in the centre of a garden, while the children plant all around it!

Since signing up to the RHSCampaign for School Gardening the free seeds, useful planting tips and lesson plans on how to incorporate a school garden into every aspect of the curriculum, have been so helpful. The children’s joy and enthusiasm for gardening has been unstoppable. They have already reached the scheme’s second bench mark and are well on their way to completing the next level.

Growing enthusiasm

This year, the children have each been given a plot of land, complete with a polytunnel, to grow their own plants and vegetables. Past seasons have produced great successes with sunflowers, squashes and potatoes, along with much excitement among the children. As Nick explains: ‘The children are always enthralled by growing vegetables, but especially potatoes. I think it’s the idea that they grow underground, and the fact you get more out of the ground than you originally plant, which really fascinates them.

You reap what you sow

This year, the children’s enthusiasm for growing vegetables is being notched up a gear, as they plan to grow enough potatoes to provide a day’s supply to the school canteen. By giving a tangible purpose to the garden, it is hoped that the children’s sense of ownership and pride in their outdoor space will continue – and be remembered over the long summer holidays and into the new term.

Nick explains further: ‘This is an exciting project for the children, as they can now make that link between what they grow and what they eat – seeing the whole cycle of food production. The school already encourages children to have two pieces of fruit or veg a day with their meals, but this is the first time they will have grown what the whole school will be eating. It’s a fairly big undertaking for the children, but they are so dedicated and keen. It will be wonderful to see the potatoes served up to the hungry faces of their peers.’

Green-fingered campaign

Every two years, Nick takes a group from his school to RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon, where they get to take part in activities organised by the RHS Education Officer, Sarah Chesters. It’s a chance for them to learn propagation techniques and see how gardening can be conducted on a larger scale.

The RHS’s Campaign for School Gardening was launched in September 2007, as a way of engaging children in a positive learning experience and in turn to grow the gardeners of the future. Dr Ruth Taylor, Head of Education at the RHS, says: ‘A major benefit of using gardening as a teaching tool is that it’s accessible to all children; including those who ordinarily might struggle in an academic environment. Children love the idea of growing things they can eat; it makes sense to them. Seeing children getting their hands dirty and learning about where their fruit and vegetables come from is a great thing to experience and as a teacher, completely rewarding.’

For more information on the RHS’ Campaign for School Gardening, and to sign “up, visit www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening

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