Trees for Cities and Bulb, the UK renewable energy supplier, are looking for London schools interested in transforming their playgrounds into food growing spaces and building their capacity to teach through gardening.
The Edible Playgrounds project includes designing and building a bespoke, vibrant and functional teaching garden alongside teacher training, curriculum mapping and other support to build teacher’s confidence and skills to teach outside.
Food Growing Schools London teams up with other organisations and councils in boroughs across London to get more schools engaged in growing.
October’s food growing forum held after school hours and hosted at St Andrew’s (Barnsbury) Primary School was a great success. 16 teachers from across Camden and Islington participated in the informative and inspiring session by sharing tips and resources from their food growing journey and initiatives.
Nick Ives, Engagement Officer for Food Growing Schools London (FGSL) writes:
“One of the best things about my role is working with fellow food growing enthusiasts – Marjon Willers, a Specialist Dietitian from the School Improvement Service of Islington is certainly one of those! We connected in the summer term and agreed to hold some food growing forums for teachers after school in the Autumn and Spring terms. Marjon agreed to find a host school and invite participants, my colleague Lisa Grant and I agreed to facilitate the session.
Our hosts Jacqui and King, from St Andrew’s (Barnsbury) Primary School generously welcomed 16 teachers and ourselves for the after school session which lasted an hour and a half.
To make best use of time we structured the session into four phases and encouraged constructive dialogue throughout:
a brief introduction from each participant and an expression of what they wanted to get out of the session
a demonstration from Lisa of the key features of the redesigned FGSL website
a tour from King and Jacqui of the school growing spaces
brief plenary to pull ideas together and agree some actions.
Some participants were new to growing, others more experienced. We had plenty of useful discussions, in which we shared relevant experiences and ideas, as well as sign posting to helpful resources and expertise. Some hoped to find out what to grow through the winter, others wanted to know how to make the best use of limited concrete growing spaces. As facilitators we made sure that every participant had a chance to get their questions addressed.
We encouraged everyone to keep in contact with us at Food Growing Schools: London – firstly to let us know what further support we can offer via our online survey and secondly to sign up for our regular FGSL Newsletter. We look forward to all meeting up again in the spring to share our growing stories some more.
This is what participants were kind enough to say about our forum:
‘Well organized, informal and practical. Plenty of ideas to take forward’
‘I have lots of cross curricular ideas now. More ideas for how to involve children in gardening’
‘Found out what to plant in Winter’
‘It’s great to see how another school is using its space and what they are growing’
Get in touch
Would schools in your borough benefit from a session of sharing and discussion like this one? Find out more, get involved and organise a session in your borough, simply email email@example.com or call 02476217747.
We’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:
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!
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.
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.
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.”
We are delighted to announce plans to build on the fantastic achievements of Food Growing Schools: London by continuing to promote food growing in London schools.
For the past three years, Garden Organic has been leading the Food Growing Schools: London partnership (funded by the Big Lottery Fund), working with the Mayor of London, Capital Growth, the Soil Association’s Food For Life project, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), School Food Matters and Trees for Cities.
Due to end in March this year, Food Growing Schools: London has achieved remarkable results helping to promote and support food growing, healthy eating and sustainability in schools across London. Now, thanks to financial support from a major donor, Garden Organic is thrilled to be able to build on the successes and learning of this project for a further 12 months.
Chris Collins, Head of Organic Horticulture at Garden Organic and former Blue Peter Gardener, is thrilled that this project will continue: “It’s such an uplifting piece of news – Garden Organic has made great strides in the past three years, highlighting and supporting the fundamental importance of organic food growing in schools.” He commented. “Understanding the process from seed to plate is a life skill, and the hard work of those involved in the Food Growing Schools: London project has made great leaps in educating the next generation. However the work is far from done; we have set off on the road and it is superb news that continued funding enables us to carry on this positive work.”
Garden Organic’s Head of Education, Colette Bond has been involved in the project since its inception. “Garden Organic has, for decades, been involved in encouraging children to grow food. We know that something as simple as growing fruit and veg organically can have a life-changing impact on children.” She commented. “A large number of London pupils have never been exposed to food growing. We’re delighted with the impact the Food Growing Schools: London project has had so far, and to now have the opportunity to continue this work.”
This support will allow Garden Organic to evolve the project over a 12 month period; to enhance the most successful elements so that even more schools embrace food growing and enjoy the life-changing benefits it has been proven to bring.
The Food Growing Schools: London website has information and downloadable resources for schools interested in accessing the support offered. Alternatively, to discuss the project further, or to talk through specific requirements, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the project
Food Growing Schools: London, launched in 2013, was established to increase the number of London schools growing food. Through a combination of hands on support, teacher training, termly growing activities and regular events, the project has delivered impressive achievements. An independent review of Food Growing Schools: London reported that 87% of London schools surveyed are now involved in growing, with 1 in 4 linking food growing directly to the curriculum. This take up of food growing activities has led to a significant increase in pupils being more aware of healthy eating and sustainability – enabling them to start making healthy life choices from an early age.
The independent external evaluation of the project, completed in 2016 by the University of the West of England, is available to download here.
It’s that time of year again. Every Spring FGSL project partners Soil Association Food for Life (FFL) encourage schools around the UK to get growing – with the support of grandparents! Grandparent Gardening Week takes place from 27-31 March 2017.
For beginners, food growing in school can seem a little daunting, but with the right support from the local community it can be surprisingly fun, and a great opportunity for all generations to learn together using the garden. Grandparents often come with bags of gardening enthusiasm, knowledge, experience and time to share with the younger generations. That’s why they’re perfect for helping in schools too.
Hosting a gardening activity
Ask a team of students to lead the Grandparent Gardening Week activities, involving your school cook and DT lead. Ask what crops they would like to see grown, think about where they might plant them or how your school cook could use them in their recipes, linking the crops with the kitchen and classroom learning. Share ideas and plans across the school to involve everyone in the fun! The Food for Life Awards Package provides plenty of expert growing resources, including Garden Organic growing cards. For a template poster, media invite and press release visit: Grandparent Gardening Week.
Spring into Growing – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!
You can also dip into FGSL Spring into Growing 2017 resources to help you get growing together on Grandparent Gardening Day. For more ideas on how to work with your local community visit FGSL Support.
Get your grandparents involved – happy growing together!
Spring into Growing – help to get growing this term at your school
At Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) we encourage and inspire schools to start growing their own food, no matter how big or how small a space you have. As Engagement Officers, my colleague Paul and I can support you in getting started. We can give you advice on the phone, run a workshop at your school, or share resources.
A great way to get started this term is to join us for Spring into Growing 2017 – Plan it. Build it. Grow it! With our expert guidance, learn the secrets to planning and constructing your own school garden, work with recycled materials and nature in order to develop a productive growing space; all with the help of your local community.
Which Engagement Officer works where in London?
Lisa Grant – I cover these boroughs – Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Greenwich, Haringey, Havering, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets.
Paul Sadler covers these boroughs – Barnet, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Enfield, Harrow, Hillingdon, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Westminster.
An example school growing food – Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets
I met with the Early Years and Foundation Stage Phase Leader, Christine Hopes, at Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets towards the end of 2016. She had the intention of starting to grow with her team of teachers and their students, in a small dedicated space outside in the playground. Christine and I spoke about what she wanted me to cover in a bespoke workshop, and we looked at their growing space to see what was possible. Here is some advice on how to get started:
Top tips for getting started
1. Where – Decide on an outdoor area where you would like to start growing food. Does it get lots of sunlight?
2. Who – Decide on who is going to take a lead in this. Is it a gardening club at lunchtime or after school? Is it a phase group? It is a parent volunteer or a member of school staff?
3. What – Do some research. Is there a local farm or a local community organisation that could support you in starting to grow your own food? Have you filled out our online FGSL survey so we can help you get started?
4. How – Get in touch with either Paul or myself after checking which boroughs we cover. We can have a conversation by email or by phone in the first instance to get going with this great adventure in growing food.
During the workshop, with another local school called Redlands Primary School, I worked with the staff to look at what plants were possible to grow at this time of year, and what small steps could be taken to start growing successfully in a manageable way. The two schools worked together to plan how they were going to start growing and I facilitated discussions about this.
Get growing in your school this Spring
If you wish to start growing and would like support from our team, please complete our online survey FGSL survey to tell us what support you need. Then, check out our online resources this term: Spring into Growing 2017 – Sow it. Grow it. Build it!
This includes information on:
• How to: Plan your school garden
• How to: Construct your garden
• How to: Work with nature in your garden
• How to: Get help from your local community
• Competitions and giveaways
It’s all getting a bit festive. Lights, Christmas trees, the smell of mince pies! But before we know it frosty mornings will soon turn to sunny, spring days. So, start 2017 with a New Year resolution! A school garden fit for growing healthy food, learning skills and sharing knowledge, whatever the size or space.
Spring into Growing 2017 – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!
Join Food Growing Schools: London and schools all across London for Spring into Growing 2017, from January to March 2017. With our expert guidance, learn the secrets to planning and constructing your school garden, working with recycled materials and nature, and developing a productive growing space, with the help of your local community.
A healthy start to the new year
But why grow? London schools are starting to see the incredible benefits of growing food in schools – benefits to health, education, the community, the environment and even the local economy. It’s a no brainer! Discover what they are here: Why Grow?
Free food growing resources for schools
We’ve gathered together some really useful school activity sheets and growing guides to help your school, under the following themes:
Gardening as a tool for teaching curriculum subjects
Food growing is also a great tool for learning, across a wide range of curriculum subjects – including Design, Engineering and Technology, Maths, Science and so much more. So growing food provides new ideas, to add inspiration to teaching and learning in 2017. Check out our Resources for ideas, tips, growing tools and activity sheets.
School food growing doesn’t have to cost the earth.
School gardens don’t have to be expensive. They can be constructed using reclaimed and recycled materials. With the help of parents, teachers and the local community it’s great fun collecting together all the materials, tools and knowledge you need to get started, together. Here are some ideas for working with your local community.
My name is Paul. I’m a School and Community Engagement Officer for the Food Growing Schools: London partnership. There are three of us – Paul, Lisa and Julie* – working across the 33 boroughs of London.
What do Engagement Officers do?
Being a FGSL Engagement Officer can be quite a diverse role. We do a lot of work ‘sign-posting’ or pointing schools in the right direction when they are starting out on their food growing journey. It’s always a joy to hear the enthusiasm from a member of school staff or a parent wanting our help to develop a new school garden. Our advice ranges from sharing information and resources about how to set up your garden and the best plants to grow, to promoting school growing activities (e.g. Spring into Growing 2017), and wider support available to schools (e.g. FGSL partners and local organisations). We also love to visit schools and meet staff, volunteers and pupils face to face. We encourage schools to get started on their food growing journey by completing our FGSL survey to tell us what support they need.
Who works in your London borough?
I feel quite lucky to have 11 boroughs that are all very enthusiastic and engaged in promoting food growing in their schools. They run from the northern outer boroughs of Harrow, Barnet and Enfield through Camden and Islington, and down into the southern ‘Flagship’ boroughs of Lambeth and Croydon where I have tended to spend quite a lot of my time supporting their work. Below is a list of where our FGSL Engagement Officers work. Email us* to find out how we can support you:
FGSL are working with Borough Councils to help schools grow
According to the Good Food for London 2016 report 30 out of 33 London boroughs are doing more to improve the food available to their residents, workers and school pupils compared to 2015. We are also proud to be working directly with borough councils to help schools grow food through our Food Growing Schools: London programme.
Swapping seeds, plants and knowledge at Borough Forums
One of my favourite activities is running a ‘Forum’ or networking event within a borough. These are always held at a local school who are growing food and happy to show off what they are doing to others. The Forums are an opportunity for anyone who is running or wanting to set up a school food growing project to gain some informal training, share what they are doing with others and gain some inspiration from the host school. We try to run a seasonal food growing activity and encourage those who turn up to bring spare seeds, plants and even an educational resource which they can share or swap with others. It a fun and informative meeting giving the chance for everyone to network and go away with a little more confidence and enthusiasm to help them on their food growing adventures.
Would you like support to get growing, or to host a Borough Forum in your school?
If you would like to host a Borough Forum in your school, or would like support for your school to get growing please get in touch. See the blue poster above for which Engagement Officer works in your borough:
Paul Sadler – email@example.com
Lisa Grant – firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please note: Julie Henley-Wilkinson is finishing with FGSL in December 2016. Please contact FGSL Project Manager, Kate Groves, if your school is based in one of her boroughs and you would like support: email@example.com