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Assembly Time! New slots available

 

Stamford Hill Primary School, Haringey. Photo: Trees for Cities
Stamford Hill Primary School, Haringey. (From left to right)
Bledina y6, David y6, Malikay6, Harvin y6, Renzo y6, Alise y6 and Haoyi y5
Photo: Trees for Cities

Our School Survey has shown that lots of schools are after some support through training, resources and activities to get going with their growing.

So we’ve produced a fun, engaging and informative assembly that our expert team have been delivering across London at no cost to schools.

So far, over 2,000 pupils have had the opportunity to learn from the assembly – from food growing trivia and why we should grow our own food, to how you can grow your own business, sell produce at markets and build a career using the skills you’ll learn.

The result?

Pupils are learning new things and teachers are benefitting from larger groups and different aged children being involved at one time.

North Ealing Primary learnt that they can successfully grow produce on their fully concreted grounds. You don’t need a designated space, you can use window sill planters and create vertical gardens or even grow on the roof! See what John Ruskin School in Southwark have done.

St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School wanted an assembly to spark ideas to use their Supergrounds more and get each year group using their designated plot and polytunnel.

If you’re not currently growing food, or just getting started on your food growing journey, the popular Food Growing Schools: London Assembly Programme could be just for you.

Our assemblies are now fully booked!

We will be adding schools on to a waiting list. If you want to be added, simply complete this short survey. We aim to get back to you as soon as assembly slots become available.

*Assemblies will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

 

Council support for food growing

Harvesting radishes
Harvesting the radishes together

In June 2014 two pilot boroughs, Croydon and Lambeth, were awarded Food Flagship status by the Mayor of London for two years to engage schools, local businesses and the wider community around healthy eating. From school food growing and education around healthy diets to learning how to cook nutritious foods, both boroughs have made huge leaps towards making healthy food the norm for everyone. 57 schools in Croydon have increased levels of food growing – a fantastic way to encourage the next generation of healthy eaters!

Check out these short films for Croydon and Lambeth to find out more.

But you don’t have to be based in Croydon or Lambeth to get support.  The Food Growing Schools: London Interim Report launched in October 2016 found that 25 of the 33 London boroughs now promote food growing in schools.

The Tri-borough (Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea) is a great example of boroughs coming together to support school food growing projects through the Healthy Schools London programme.

Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee School, a special school in the City of Wesminster, has been supported by their Healthy Schools Coordinator to plan and develop a garden area accessible to pupils of all abilities. A whole school approach has included staff training and integrating growing across the curriculum.  The school is now working towards gaining their Silver Healthy Schools Award.

Recipe for Success – Councils
1. Councils can support schools by promoting the benefits of growing and helping create an environment that makes it easier to get started. Find out where to start and download the free FGSL toolkit to help.
2. The benefits can be felt across the community – from health and education to the local economy, find out more about how encouraging food growing can benefit your borough.

Recipe for Success – Schools
1. Contact your Healthy Schools Coordinator to ask for help with your school food growing activities
2. Build support for food growing with teachers and the management team – share FGSL research on the benefits of food growing
3. Get growing this term with the Free FGSL Grow Your Own Picnic resources and involve the local community in your school garden and celebrations

Making the most of a small space

Growing in a small plot
Growing in a small space

The hats and gloves have been packed away and the sun has been making an appearance across the country.  With the warmer and lighter days comes the opportunity to pull on your wellies and start growing food at your school this year.

We know it might seem a bit daunting at first so we have put together a series of blogs to help you spring over the hurdles and get started.

Our schools survey showed that around 30% of schools consider lack of space to be one of the biggest hurdles to food growing that they face. So, first things first – where can we grow?

If you happen to have a nice sunny spot on your school playing field then great, start digging! But if not, don’t give up.  Lots of food can be grown in containers of all shapes and sizes on the ground, on windowsills or hanging down.

John Ruskin Primary School in Southwark have limited outdoor space so all of their growing is in trugs and raised beds built on the playground, and with help from Walworth Garden Farm, they have also started growing food on the roof of the school.

They have lost a bit of playground area but the children play around the beds which makes the space more dynamic. Now they’re thinking of how to make opportunities to grow upwards, using archways and trellis to get the most out of every square foot.

Suzy Gregory, Co-Deputy Headteacher suggests getting a planter as big as you can afford, and just start growing.  Plant something easy like lettuce, potatoes or tomatoes and give it a grow!

Recipe for Success

  1. Look at your space with new eyes and think creatively, use these resources to help choose crops that do well in small spaces
  1. Small manageable spaces can produce lots of different types of crops, this resource form Garden Organic helps you get the most out of a 120x120cm space
  1. If you want to gain as much growing area as possible consider your school roof but make sure you seek advice from professionals first

Put food growing on your curriculum

Looking after the seedlings
Looking after the seedlings

‘Lack of time in the curriculum’ came in the top three of barriers to food growing faced by schools in our schools survey. Schools have to achieve so much but instead of being an add-on, food growing can actually help to deliver the curriculum and has been known to increase attainment levels too.

Growing a few spuds or some tomatoes is fun and relatively easy, but it’s when food growing is linked to the curriculum, and ideally across the whole school, that the real magic happens.

At Charlton Manor Primary food growing is incorporated across all subjects and lessons are planned with a gardener and chef to revolve around the garden. Headteacher Tim Baker is convinced this ‘learning through doing’ approach has helped children to make sense of the curriculum as well as encouraging them to lead healthier lives. The school has reported better concentration and behaviour, and increases in attendance and attainment as a result of their whole school approach to food growing.

It’s not just the obvious subjects. FGSL partner Trees for Cities surveyed the 50 schools they have helped and while all Headteachers said that they used their edible playgrounds for Maths and Science lessons, schools were using the garden for other subjects too. English and Art were high on the list with 92%, followed by Design and Technology (76%), Geography (30%), Languages (23%), RE and ICT (15%) and History (7%).

Chisenhale School has made their garden a learning place for the whole school with classes across all subjects being held in their outdoor classroom. Children have also sold the produce, linking food growing to curriculum areas like marketing and enterprise. Parent gardener Cassie Liversidge has seen children who struggle to concentrate in the classroom, building confidence and skills through the garden.

Top ideas for curriculum-linked activities

  • Science – learning about growing plants, wild habitats and lifecycles
  • English – using the garden as inspiration for creative writing
  • Design Technology – constructing wildlife habitats like hedgehog boxes and bird feeders
  • Maths – counting birds and other wildlife, measuring beans or sunflowers
  • Geography – growing different foods from around the world
  • History – Foraging with stone age man, growing herbs for victorian remedies
  • Cooking and nutrition – using organic produce from the garden

Recipe for Success

  1. Book a free Food Growing School: London (FGSL) curriculum-linked assembly for your school, delivered by one of our team of food growing enthusiasts to excite pupils and inspire teachers to get growing in your school.
  2. Build support for food growing with teachers and the management team – share FGSL research on the benefits of food growing.
  3. Take advantage of the huge amount of free resources available online to help link food growing to the curriculum. Start with the Termly Packs from FGSL and growing resources from FGSL Partners including these from the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.

Food Growing in Schools: Research Round-up

The benefits of food growing reach far beyond improving gardening skills and teaching children where food comes from and the FGSL partnership has gathered lots of evidence to show this.

Research round upTrees for Cities (TFC) have worked with 50 schools to create Edible Playgrounds. These spaces are a fun way to teach children new skills, enrich food education and get food growing into the curriculum.

TFC identify some of the key challenges that food growing helps to tackle:

  1. Children have a disconnect with nature and understanding where food comes from:

33% of pupils in UK primary schools believe cheese comes from plants.

25% believed that fish fingers come from chicken or pigs.*

  1. Mental and physical health problems are widespread:

Latest figures from Public Health England show that a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese.

1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

So how are pupils benefitting from food growing?

Improved skills, knowledge and behaviour

Over 90% of head teachers said their Edible Playground had increased students’ gardening skills, knowledge of the environment and food origins and uptake of fruit and vegetables.

Lots of schools have been using the playground to run therapy sessions for SEN children or those with anger management issues.

70% of schools surveyed said the playgrounds have supported work with SEN students or those with challenging behavioural issues.

“It has a very calming effect on some pupils with significantly challenging behavioural difficulties”  Rockmount Primary School.

RHS research has also found that gardening can help children to develop ‘a more resilient, confident and responsible approach to life’.

Food growing used as a teaching tool

All of the Head Teachers surveyed use their edible playground for maths and science lessons, as well as for English and art (92%), design and technology (76%), geography (30%), languages (23%), RE and ICT (15%) and history (7%).

1 in 4 schools now link food growing to the curriculum**

These positive findings echo the results of the independent FGSL evaluation 2016, that also shows how food growing in schools increases links between schools and local businesses, organisations and volunteers and brings significant value to schools that are part of the programme.

Read the full FGSL report and more about the TFC research results.

*surveyed by the British Nutrition Foundation in 2013.  **FGSL Figures based on evaluation surveys with lead school teachers in September 2013 (n=504) and July 2016 (n=241).

Value your school grown produce

Once you’ve got your food growing underway, why not celebrate your efforts by finding out the value of all that you’ve grown?

How much does your garden grow? Use the Harvest-ometer to find out!
How much does your garden grow? Use the Harvest-ometer to find out!

Food Growing Schools: London partner Capital Growth have developed a simple tool to track what your school grows in kilograms and pounds. It also produces graphs, perfect for motivating volunteers and pupils, and showcasing your work to the school and parents!

During the first two seasons of the Harvest-ometer over 189 growing spaces grew enough food to contribute to a whopping 502,000 meals, weighing over 40 tonnes and valued at £288k.  Capital Growth also found an estimated £2.4m of food is being grown each year across their network, which includes community growing spaces, as well as schools.

Harvest-ometer facts

Salads, squash, courgettes and potatoes are the most popular crops being grown in London.

The average yield per Square metre is just less than £3.50 per square meter.

How can schools and growing spaces get involved?

To use the Harvest-ometer sign in or sign up to the Capital Growth member’s area and click on ‘The Harvest-ometer Challenge.’

If you have any questions, big or small, just get in touch with maddie@sustainweb.org

Need help to get growing? Join a Capital Growth training session and check out the FGSL Resources.

Four steps to managing your garden pests

Sharing your garden with nature is part of gardening and even in the best managed fruit and veg gardens, natural pests and predators will present themselves, but they needn’t be a problem.

Follow Capital Growth’s four simple steps to manage your pests: Protect, Remove, Repel, Prevent.

pests-and-diseases1. PROTECT your plants using cut plastic bottles around the seedling to prevent pests from reaching the plant.

2. REMOVE the pest by manually taking off those you can see.

By taking off the top of broad beans if they’re covered in aphids (greenfly, blackfly, plant lice) the plant has a chance to grow and produce beans.

Take a look at the RHS advice on Aphids.

Create a ‘slug and snail hunt’ and re-locate the culprits outside your garden- at least a few 100 yards away. Check out Garden Organic’s information on how to prevent and remove slugs, along with fascinating facts. Who knew there are over 100 different species of slugs and snails in the UK!.

Scare away birds by hanging fabric or CDs near your plants – we’ve found some bird control methods here.

Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds
Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds

3. REPEL using natural methods

Garlic spray is great for all aphids (and safe to use, just watch your eyes) and easy to prepare; put one crushed garlic clove with the skin left on into 1 litre of boiling water. Cool and strain and you have a very effective spray.

Get rid of pests with garlic

Got a problem with the fast-growing fungus that is mildew? Powdery mildews attack a wide range of plants, causing a white, dusty coating on leaves, stems and flowers.

Use milk to prevent powdery mildew

4. PREVENT any more pests from coming in.

Limit pest habitats like planks of wet wood on the ground which harbour slugs and snails and promote pests by offering them habitats. Have a hedgehog house, a bat and a bird box nearby, make solitary bee boxes and leave an untidy patch to attract more beneficial insects.

Avoid pesticides, encourage wildlife

Get more great advice from Green Gardener and our friends at the RHS, who have a helpful A-Z of pests and solutions. And join a Capital Growth training session.

Access Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project exclusively through Food for Life

We’re delighted to let you know that Food for Life has formally teamed up with Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project to give all Food for Life schools and nurseries EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to their beautiful food education and growing resources.

Get involved: Jamie Oliver and Food For Life's Kitchen Garden Project
Get involved: Jamie Oliver and Food For Life’s Kitchen Garden Project

The partnership means that the Kitchen Garden Project digital resources will be available to all schools who sign up to the Food for Life Membership or Awards Packages.

The resources include delicious Jamie Oliver recipes for children, lesson plans, helpful teaching notes, growing units, curriculum-linked activities and nutrition information, all tailored to primary school-level cooking lessons and activities for garden-based learning.

A single subscription to both food education programmes means that you will have even more flexibility and support around practical cooking, growing and food-based learning.  Schools who have already been working with Food for Life and the Kitchen Garden Project have told us how well the resources complement each other.  We hope you think so too!

Find out more and see a sample of the resources

Grow Your Own Picnic

Time to Grow Your Own Picnic!
Time to Grow Your Own Picnic!

What better way to show off the school’s new-found gardening skills than to Grow Your Own Picnic to share with pupils, parents and the local community.

The FREE Grow Your Own Picnic Pack from Food Growing Schools: London is jammed full of advice, tips and activities to help you plan and grow crops and then turn them into delicious home-made dips, sandwiches, salads and other delights to create a summer picnic feast.

The pack also includes advice for linking with your local community to generate support for your growing activities and to share the spoils of success at the end of the summer term.

So what are you waiting for? Download the Grow Your Own Picnic pack now and start to harvest the benefits of school food growing.

And if you’re after a bit of support to get your growing going, sign up for a free food growing assembly delivered by one of our expert team.

Reap what you sow: Tips from Chris Collins

Chris Top tips resizedWe’re delighted to be able to share some top tips from FGSL resident expert Chris Collins, to help you get the most from your food growing efforts this year.

“This is the busiest point in the garden and time to get cracking if you want a bountiful summer. Sowing seeds is currently the order of the day for me. This year I’m growing many heritage varieties that I got from Garden Organic, but use whatever you can get your hands on!”

For schools, there’s always the challenge of the timing of terms, particularly growing ‘tender’ crops such as tomatoes, runner beans or pumpkins. These are no lovers of any cold weather and need to be protected until mid-May before planting out. This leaves only a small amount of time for harvesting in the school garden before the summer break begins.

To get around this dilemma we need to sow these plants NOW, so here are some handy tips:

  1. Invest in a few propagators (mini Greenhouses) like these.

Whilst they do require initial expenditure, they’ll last many seasons if cared for. If this is not an option, a pot with a perforated sandwich bag held in place by canes and a rubber band over it will suffice. This video might help!

  1. Sow plants using a seed compost

Don’t skimp on compost, it’s important! But you can save money by producing your own compost by collecting leaves, raw food waste, such as fruit and veg peelings, and adding them to a compost heap in your garden.

How to make your own compost

  1. Re-pot plants

In its incubation chamber, our propagator will soon germinate our seeds. Once this happens they should be taken out, potted into bigger pots if necessary and placed on a bright school window ledge, preferably out of long periods of direct sunshine which may bleach the leaves.

  1. Grow, then plant out

These plants can then be grown until the safety of mid-May, at which point they can be planted out as nice sturdy specimens, giving them a great head start on the season.

“This will all be worth the extra effort. Tomatoes, beans and pumpkins are the fastest growing and fastest yielding of the edible crops, making them a real joy for the children to see them grow.”

Also check out this advice on sowing indoors from The RHS and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Happy Growing!