Food Growing in the Primary Curriculum – Croydon Session

Food Growing Schools Engagement Officer, Lisa Grant will be delivering an afternoon session in Croydon on March 21st from 1.00 – 3.30pm on Food Growing in the Primary Curriculum.

Open to teachers and school staff in Croydon and the surrounding area.

Please sign-up in advance with Croydon School Food Improvement Officer Laura Flanagan:


Tel: 020 8604 7459

FaceTime/Skype a Farmer for #FarmingFriday

LEAF and FACE have an exciting opportunity to bring the world of farming, food and the environment directly into your classroom.

LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), has recently merged with FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) and work together educating young people and the wider public regarding the agricultural industry as a whole.


LEAF and FACE are listed in our Food Growing Schools: London Directory of supporting organisations – see the Directory here.

 What is FaceTime/Skype a Farmer?

FaceTime/Skype a Farmer has operated a successful pilot scheme in the East of England and they would now like to extend the invite to your school.

British farmers work in a modern, high-tech industry and are eager to engage with young people. LEAF and FACE would like to facilitate either a FaceTime or Skype call between your classroom and a farmer (either locally or from another part of the UK or both).

The Process

They want to make this easy for teachers to organise as well as engaging and informative for the students.

Download this pdf for full details: #Farming Friday – Schools

A designated teacher emails the farmer a week before the call to either:

  • Give the farmer questions to answer from your students

– Or –

  • Discuss areas of the National Curriculum / Exam Specifications you are currently covering that might relate to food, farming or the environment.

The farmer will then be able to talk to your class over Skype or FaceTime, from a location on his/her farm – either in the field, the barn, tractor, harvester, etc.

For example, farmers are able to talk about soil, animal welfare, seasons, the farm as a business, etc.

Ideally this is best suited to a registration/tutor time once per week / two weeks / monthly to last between 10-20minutes. But ultimately the project is flexible to best meet your needs

The farmers will all be current working farmers who have a passion for talking about what they do and engaging with young people … perhaps even inspiring a future generation to consider the agricultural industry as a career option. Many of the farmers will have experience of hosting and running school visits.

Currently LEAF/FACE are looking for the names and contact details of schools that would be interested and have the capability to Skype or FaceTime a farmer.

If you are interested, please send in the following details to

Name and Address of School:

Age Range:

Teacher Contact Name:

Teacher Contact Email:

Best time for your call to take place:


This initiative is starting in the Spring Term of 2018. Once we have the details of the schools that are interested they can find a farmer for you to start an engaging conversation between schools and farmers.

In the meantime, if you would like any further information please feel free to contact your Regional Education Consultant.

About Countryside Classroom

Countryside Classroom helps teachers to find resources, places to visit and school support relating to the themes of food, farming and the natural environment. Our site contains a range of quality assured educational content from hundreds of contributors.

About LEAF

LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) is the leading organisation delivering more sustainable food and farming.  LEAF works with farmers, the food industry, scientists and consumers to inspire and enable sustainable farming that is prosperous, enriches the environment and engages local communities.  We are leading a collaborative approach within the industry for better education and public engagement in farming, food and the countryside among the public, children and young people.

About FACE

FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) is the leading educational charity working with schools to help children and young people understand the connection between farming and their daily lives. FACE creates high quality educational experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, that change perspectives and deepen understanding of the food we eat, the people who produce it and the choices we all make as citizens.

School Garden Grants from School Food Matters & Whole Kids Foundation

School Food Matters have partnered with Whole Kids Foundation to provide School Garden Grants for schools in the four London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and Waltham Forest. Whole Kids Foundation is offering a total of £40,000 in grants of up to £2,000 per school to create new edible gardens or to enhance existing ones within the schools grounds.

The School Garden Grants are open to:

  • all schools in the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and Waltham Forest
  • applications for grants up to £2000

Schools can apply for funding for a whole range of food growing projects from building raised beds or adding greenhouses, to completely revitalising neglected allotment spaces or creating sensory gardens for special needs students. Schools can also apply for a grant to provide food growing training for staff and students.

Applications must be submitted by 5pm on Friday 6th April 2018. The grant programme will close on that date or when we have received 80 applications – whichever is sooner.

To apply, download and complete the application form from

Grow a School Garden – Seeds and Spring Planting

Grow a School Garden – Feb/Mar 2018

Monthly blog by Chris Collins on How to Create and Grow a School Garden

Spring is nearly here

It is this time of year that suddenly a day will come when finally after a long winter, everybody will feel the warmth of the sun on their face again. It’s such a welcome feeling and also very exciting time for our outdoor spaces.

This is the time to get busy in the garden, particularly for producing plants. Seed sowing is the one thing that can really get children hooked on growing plants . Watching a seed come to life and grow into a plant is a wonder that never gets tiring.

Tips for seed germination

So here are some ideas for getting your seed going.

Firstly if there is a budget, I really recommend investing in a couple of propagators . These are basically mini greenhouses that can be kept in the classroom and used to start all those tender crops that will need protection from the spring cold.

Tomatoes, Broad Beans, Courgettes, Squash and Pumpkins will all germinate well in a propagator, which can then be grown on indoors until its time to plant out.

Starting these plants like this means that you will be planting out strong healthy plants. It will extend your growing season, hopefully meaning you will get plenty of crops before the summer term ends.

History and science lessons with seeds

Growing seeds in the classroom like this also lends itself to the opportunity to studying how seeds work. They are truly incredible things, a couple of examples of this could be the Giant Redwood, the biggest living plant on Earth that has a seed that is a billionth the size of a fully grown tree . Or why are Poppies associated with Remembrance day. Its because Poppy seeds only germinate when they are exposed to light . The artillery fire unearthed Poppy seeds, some of which may have been underground for over a hundred years and then they proceeded to grow and flower. This example can also be used to teach some of the history of the first world war.

Raking and treading soil

Seeds, however also give us the chance to get outside and get our Carrots and Broad Beans growing. The soil will be all nicely dug from the winter gardening, now we can rake and tread it.

This entails using the rake to create a soil as level as possible . Use it to take out any lumps or dips. Treading means to use the back of your heels to firm down the whole area. It means a funny walk across the soil but it takes out all the air pockets and allows smooth capillary action enabling water movement in the soil.

Sowing carrots

Once you’ve done this, Carrots can be sown in drills. Put down a line of string across your plot, make a small trench along the line (use a piece of bamboo) and sow your seeds (check the packet for spacing tips), cover over, water and label.

Watering tips

A good tip is to use a watering can with a rose head, turn the rose so its facing upward, this will create a fine water spray when poured and thus prevents you washing out and displacing those carefully sown seeds. Using a line (drill) to sow seeds like this means when they grow into seedlings you will know what they are and distinguish them from any weeds growing at the same time in the surrounding soil.

Veg writing project idea

A couple of projects for early spring could be Veg writing. How about sowing some Salad leaves with your name or the school name? Mark out the name with sand and make a small trench in the sand and sow in Rocket or Green salad leaves. Then using drills surrounding the sown Rocket, sow red leaved Salad. When it all starts to grow you will see your school name. Clip with scissors from time to time and use the clipped salad leaves in sandwiches.

Window ledge herb garden

On the topic of edible plants, a small herb garden can be made and sit outside the classroom on a window ledge.

You can get yourself a pot or is there something we can recycle?

You can use many things for a pot just remember that it will need drainage, so make sure you can put holes in the bottom of it. Herbs don’t like wet feet, so mix peat-free compost with some gravel or sand. Maybe put some gravel in the bottom of the pot too.

If you are putting it on a window sill make sure it fits before adding the compost.

Then start to collect and plant your herbs. Small herbs like Parsley and Coriander can be grown from seed. Larger herbs , like Lavender and Rosemary can be bought, quite cheaply from the garden centre and why not see if anyone has Oregano or Lemon Balm as these can easily be divided up – maybe someone’s Grandma has some in her garden somewhere!

Happy Gardening!

Chris Collins
Head of Organic Horticulture – Garden Organic


Heads share what schools do with their fruit & veg

Survey of Trees for Cities Edible Playground schools

Winter is the perfect time to ensure your beds are ready for the sunnier days ahead. And it’s a fun opportunity to plan the lessons you’ll teach outside and the produce you want to grow this season.

For some inspiration on what to do with all the produce once it’s grown, a recent Trees for Cities survey of Edible Playground schools offers some inspiration.

The survey found that produce is being used in a huge variety of ways; sold to parents and others at school events, garden markets or direct to restaurants, put straight into school meals as ingredients for cooking club, or eaten straight out of the beds during lessons, gardening club or playtime – a fantastic way for the children to reap the rewards of their hard work.

What could be better than that?

To discover more about Edible Playgrounds, click here.


The Big Dig is back!

Saturday 21 April 2018

” The spirit of the Big Dig is what community gardening is all about “

Join Capital Growth and gardens across the capital to kick off the growing season on this annual volunteer open day. Every spring, hundreds of volunteers pull on their wellies and head outside to help community gardens get ready to grow.

Find out more and register your school here.

The Big Dig across the UK

In 2016, in London over 40 gardens took part, welcoming over 750 volunteers to help shovel compost, build trellises, plant seedlings and enjoy a hard day’s work in the company of friends and neighbours.

The Big Dig started as an event run by Capital Growth in 2012 to engage volunteers in their local food-growing space. It was initially funded as a nationwide project, managed by Sustain, recruiting 7,500 new volunteers to take part in community gardening.

Find out more and register your school here.

How to plan a food growing area and link it to the curriculum

Food Growing Schools: London partner School Food Matters is hosting two Gardening Training mornings for school staff in Ealing and Lambeth.

The training will cover planning your food growing area as well as ideas on how to link it to the curriculum. The training will be run by our gardening expert Nick Ives from Food Growing Schools: London.

Who should attend?

Any adult from your school interested in gardening – a teacher, support staff, parent, volunteer – the choice is yours!

Each school can bring up to 1 adult. The session is free to attend and will be a great chance to get some great tips and advice, as well as meet people from other schools.

Gardening Training mornings – ‘How to plan a food growing area and link it to the curriculum’
Where: Reay Primary School, Hackford Road, London, SW9 0EN
Date: Tuesday 27th February 2018
Time: 9.30am to 12.30pm

Where: Lady Margaret Primary School, Lady Margaret Rd, Southall, UB1 2NH
Date: Tuesday 6th March 2018
Time: 9.30am to 12.30pm

For more info and to register in advance please contact School Food Matters.

Organic Farming Opportunities for Young People

Great news for young people

WWOOF UK has reduced the minimum age limit for people who want to volunteer on organic farms and as a special promotional opportunity, is offering ten £50 bursaries. If you are aged 16 or 17, live in the UK and would like to try WWOOFing (as volunteering with us is affectionately known), you can apply for a bursary at: before 16 April 2018. The £50 bursary will cover your WWOOF UK membership fee and contribute £30 towards your travel expenses.


WWOOFing offers hands-on experience on organic farms, gardens and smallholdings – all provide food, accommodation and learning in exchange for practical help on the land. WWOOF UK holds a list of hosts who range from a low-impact woodland settlement to a 600-hectare mixed holding with on-site farm shop, cafe and education centre. Today in the UK we have  680 hosts and 4,700 volunteers.

WWOOF UK Co-ordinator Scarlett Penn says: ‘WWOOF has been facilitating amazing, life changing opportunities for people for more than 45 years and we are delighted to now offer opportunities to younger people too. We hope the bursaries will incentivise them to give WWOOFing a try and then spread the word about their experience to their families and friends.’

Join in!

If you are interested in getting practical experience of organic growing and farming, want to meet and get inspired by like-minded people, and understand more about the relationship between local food production and community spirit, then this project could be for you.

Visit their website for more.

Bexley food growing and mental health workshop a success

Food Growing Schools: London teamed up with The London Borough of Bexley’s Public Health Team to highlight the positive impact food growing can have on young peoples mental health and to get more schools to get involved.

We shared details about this session in January, to see more read Promoting healthy lifestyles and mental wellbeing in schools.

The food growing forum was held after school on 29 January at Bexley Civic Council Offices and was a great success.

Ten staff members from various Bexley Primary and Secondary Schools participated in an informative session that considered how school food growing activities can support the mental health needs of pupils.

Lisa Grant, Engagement Officer for Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) writes:

“The Public Health Team in Bexley and I met with in November last year to discuss the idea we had of a jointly run forum/workshop. We wanted to share information about dealing with the struggles that school-life can throw-up by discussing outdoor learning or food growing as a positive outlet for pupils with mental health challenges.  We were thrilled to be able to come together to run this session which was met with positive reviews.”

Pascale, from Bexley Public Health team,  has a background in promoting positive initiatives for dealing with mental health issues. She shared information around the Five Ways to Wellbeing – something she is promoting through assemblies in schools in Bexley..

Lisa from Food growing Schools; London knew that many of the people attending were new to food growing and worked at schools where the outdoor growing space was overgrown or non-existent.  She presented ideas on how to infuse outdoor learning activities linked to promoting mental health initiatives into the school day.The session included attendees making their own paper pot, filling it with compost and sowing a broad bean seed.  This activity was an example of what school staff could engage in with their pupils in a mindful way.

We encouraged everyone to keep in contact with us at Food Growing Schools: London in order for us to let them know what further support we could offer via our online survey. On top of that, we encouraged everyone to sign-up for our regular FGSL Newsletter which includes lots of helpful information including fun competitions and training available throughout London.

Grow a School Garden – Gardening in the Winter

Grow a School Garden – Jan/Feb 2018

Monthly blog by Chris Collins on How to Create and Grow a School Garden

Gardening in the winter

It’s tempting to stay in the warmth of the classroom – it’s not looking too cosy outside at the moment. A garden still needs the attention though, even in these dormant months and there are plenty of ways we can still tie the garden to the learning curriculum.

Getting ready for spring

A job that children never tire of is digging over the soil.

In many ways, January and February are great months to get head of the game. Any areas of soil or raised beds can be turned over and any unwanted plants removed. Give it a real thorough dig over, making sure the soil is broken into a nice fine texture and give it a rake to get it even.

This is great physical exercise for the pupils and it’s also an opportunity to teach them about soil – the gardener’s most important asset.

It also ties in nicely with making sure you’re ready to start composting come spring, if you are not already. Composting, of course, is the way we keep our soil healthy.

If you’re without a compost bin, why not get the children to design one? Maybe by applying a theme?

We built a Dalek compost on Blue Peter in one episode and this was a great way to make the subject more interesting. It would also make for a good art lesson.

Personally, my preferred way of composting is to have an open bin. By that I mean having something that is easily accessible.

Dalek composter
Build an open bin compost
  • Get four wooden posts, dig four holes and set the posts in at a depth of 20cm.
  • Add some quick drying concrete at the base of the posts.
  • After the posts set in, attach chicken wire to three sides of the posts leaving the front open.
  • Now it is easy to fill your compost area and you can also turn the contents easily.

You’ll find it can be great for wildlife too! What will the pupils find in it? Maybe a slowworm, or at the very least some earthworms and centipedes.

Tips for raised beds

I will add one more note about soil and it’s something I’ve observed on my travels to many schools over the years and that is raised beds that do not contain enough soil.

Make sure your beds or containers are properly topped up. Soil should be filled right up to at least 5cm from the top of a raised bed. Giving plant roots room to grow will be important to success.

Planning for spring growing

So, what to do on a dank wet February day when it’s the gardening club? Well, in many ways this can be an exciting time!

The spring will soon be here and it’s time to decide what you want to grow. How do you want your garden area to look? It’s an interesting math’s lesson on looking how tall or wide certain plants might get when planning your area and your growing space.

Make sure you get the Heritage Seed Library seed list catalogue from Garden Organic. It’s great fun for everyone to pick the plants that you want to grow.

“Pizza wheel” garden
Project idea: How to make a pizza wheel

To take this a step further, let’s apply this to a project. We can do this by making what I often refer to as a pizza wheel.

You can make one of these from recycled materials like bricks or pebbles.

  • Make a circle, using a pin at the centre of your area and string to mark the circle. The length of the string dictates the size of your pizza wheel is up to you.
  • Once you have your circle you can then divide it into sections or slices. This up to you but it does not need to be big, in fact you could even do it in a pot.
  • Now, as a class or a gardening club, pick a recipe for a meal then grow some of the contents of that recipe in your pizza wheel slices. For example, it could be something as simple as a salad and therefore you could grow a mix of lettuce, rocket, radish, tomatoes or cucumbers.

Well hope you find some ideas in the Grow A School Garden Blog and that you’ll join me next month.

If you have any questions or even ideas that you may want to contribute please do get in touch.

For the meantime, happy gardening!

Chris Collins

Head of Organic Horticulture – Garden Organic