Helping the mental health of school children

Mike from Trees for Cities delves into the research showing the difference that food growing can make to the mental health of children and young people.

Garden Organic at Wimbledon Chase Primary School

Mental health and well being are topics that have gained increased attention over the past few years, particularly in relation to children. Perhaps it’s due to the rise in mental health problems among young people.

According to researchers, the proportion of children and young people reporting mental health issues has grown six times in England in just two decades.

The Mental Health Foundation recommend a number of ways to help keep our schoolchildren healthy. Suggestions include ‘eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise’, ‘having time and freedom to play, indoors and outdoors’, and ‘going to a school that looks after the well being of all its pupils’.

All of these factors of course resonate with what we at Edible Playgrounds and, the Food Growing Schools: London partnership, aim to achieve: using food growing to help develop healthy habits in children and get them excited about fruit and vegetables.

And there’s a large body of evidence to suggest the simple act of gardening will do wonders for a person’s health, both mental and physical. Research shows that gardeners on the whole have higher self-esteem and fewer depressive feelings and fatigue that their non-gardening counterparts. Reductions in anxiety, stress and blood pressure have all been linked to regularly working in the garden.

Gardening gives us a sense of responsibility and purpose and as such, encourages feelings of self-worth. It is also fantastic exercise, releasing dopamine, serotonin and endorphins that make us feel good. And the mindful nature of it allows us to focus on the task at hand, living in the present moment rather than being distracted by potentially anxious or uncomfortable thoughts.

There are even microbes found in soil that act as natural antidepressants. Mycobacterium vaccae occurs naturally in the soil around us and has been shown to increase levels of serotonin and decrease anxiety. How incredible is that!

Gardening doesn’t have to be an extracurricular activity at school. It can be a really useful teaching resource to help provide lessons across numerous different subjects – Maths, Science, English, Art; the possibilities are as great as teachers’ imaginations. And the feedback we’ve heard from teachers is often that an outdoor teaching resource helps them input an extra level of creativity and spark into their lesson plans.

If you don’t have the space or know-how, you can start small: a few pots on a sunny windowsill, some seeds, soil and water can be all you need to begin your gardening journey. And your ambitions and knowledge can grow as your seedlings start to sprout.

If you are keen to discuss possibilities of creating an Edible Playground at a school, contact the author of this article: mike@treesforcities.org.

Grow On, Film It! Trees for Cities video competition announced

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Competition: Trees for Cities are calling all schools to make a short film about food growing in your playground/open space. Win amazing prizes for your school:

  • £200 gardening voucher for the 1st prize;
  • £100 gardening voucher for 2nd;
  • £50 gardening voucher for 3rd.

They’ll also send out spring seed packs to all entrants, so there’s plenty of incentive for schools to get on board!

Along with energy company Bulb, Trees for Cities are launching a Grow On, Film It competition for schools to show us the effects food growing has on the pupils and staff.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re growing a few herbs in a small window box or a feast’s worth of different fruits and vegetables in multiple raised beds, we want to see how you do it.

Be as imaginative and creative as you can! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Say a poem about the garden
  • Tell the story from seed to plate
  • Show us how school life has changed since growing at school
  • Show us how the growing can be incorporated into the curriculum
  • Let us know about your gardening skills and why your plants grow so well
  • Share how the gardening encourages a deeper connection to nature

You might decide to add songs, graphics, comedy – it’s totally up to you, though ensure you keep the films under 3 minutes long. Points will be awarded for imagination, so get those thinking caps on. We can’t wait to see what you produce!

DEADLINE:

The deadline for submissions is Monday 1 October 2018, so please ensure you have your submissions in before then.

You can find all the competition details, how to enter, tips and tricks on the Trees for Cities web page.

Here’s last year’s winning entry for some inspiration!

 

Three London schools launch new Edible Playgrounds

Food Growing Schools: London partner Trees for Cities have recently celebrated Edible Playground launch events at three London primary schools.

Olga Primary in Tower Hamlets, St Anne’s in Lambeth and Gallions in Newham all opened their gardens to guests as they cut the ribbon on their new outdoor growing space.

A number of dignitaries attended, including local ward councillors, members of the senior leadership teams of neighbouring schools, members of Healthy Schools London and even Mayor Christopher Wellbelove from Lambeth Council.

Mayor Christopher Wellbelove at St Anne’s with Trees for Cities staff.

There were speeches, guided tours of the garden space and performances from the children. A particular highlight was a hearing a Year 3 child from Olga Primary describe a salad dish made from tomatoes and basil from the Edible Playground: “Have you ever thought of growing your own juicy, ripe tomatoes? It is a feeling like no other, it is seriously the best feeling ever”.

Olga pupils in their cooking outfits showing their crops.

Each of the schools serves a higher than average percentage of pupils whose first language is not English and each has a higher percentage of pupils who are eligible for free school meals, indicating a higher level of deprivation that the national average.

It is urban schools like this, with little access to nature, that make ideal partners for the Edible Playgrounds programme. The Edible Playgrounds give the children a chance to learn about growing and eating healthy fruit and veg, and to connect with nature in a way that would be very difficult for them otherwise.

Growing themed bunting made by the pupils.

And the impacts on the lives of the children at these schools is tangible. Linda Ewers, Head Teacher at Olga Primary, said: “A bare playground has been transformed,” and “Our children are involved in the whole cycle of growing food – they are interested in what is growing and in the other life that can be found in the garden”.

Gallions’ Edible Playground thriving despite the summer heatwave.

If you are interested in learning more about the Edible Playground programme, and the generous match fund opportunities currently available, head to the Trees for Cities website or get in touch at info@edibleplaygrounds.org.

Turn your ‘Sugar Tax’ funding into an Edible Playground

The Department for Education have published details on the allocation of the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund – money raised from the ‘Sugar Tax’ – and some schools will be eligible for funding that can go towards projects that increase the health and wellbeing of the school.

For schools that receive funding and are looking at ways to develop learning outside the classroom, it will be an excellent time to get in touch with Trees for Cities to find out about the Edible Playground programme.

The HPCF is intended to improve children’s and young people’s physical and mental health by improving and increasing availability to facilities for physical activity, healthy eating, mental health and wellbeing and medical conditions.

With ‘Garden spaces for growing produce’ specifically mentioned within the HPCF guidelines, schools can use their allocation towards paying for the project.

With matchfunds from Trees for Cities’ corporate sponsors covering the majority of the programme price, funding such as the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund will go a long way to plugging the gap.

If you are interested in hearing more about the Edible Playgrounds programme, contact Trees for Cities.

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.

 

Free trees are back for London primary schools!

Order your free pack of saplings from 15 January for planting with pupils on your school grounds next winter: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/free-trees/.

State primary schools which haven’t ordered tree packs previously, or for a long time, are eligible to apply.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get your children outside to learn about nature, improve the local environment at your school and create a much needed home for our urban wildlife. Packs as small as 30 saplings are available, so you don’t need much space to get involved!

Trees for Cities will provide all the necessary support to make you feel confident in planting and caring for your new saplings. They are the London delivery partner for the ‘Trees for Schools’ programme, funded by Defra and delivered in partnership with the Woodland Trust.

Please contact Trees for Cities for more information on 02075871320 or schools@treesforcities.org

Matchfunds for Trees for Cities Edible Playgrounds

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.

See more about the programme here www.edibleplaygrounds.org

Matchfunding

Through the Bulb partnership Trees for Cities is excited to offer generous matchfunds towards all projects.

Get in touch with Trees for Cities to find out more.

Please contact carys@treesforcities.org or complete an expression of interest form www.edibleplaygrounds.org/early-expression-of-interest

 

Trees for Cities’ Jenny Hindson wins Learning Outside the Classroom Award

From left to right: Martin Giles (Head Teacher at Meridian High), Jenny Hindson (Trees for Cities), Ros Sandell (Head Teacher at Fairchildes Primary) and Councillor Louisa Woodley

Updated 17 Nov 2017.

Congrats to Jenny Hindson and Trees for Cities for winning the LOtC Innovator Award for their Edible Playgrounds work!

Originally published 10 Nov 2017.

The shortlisted nominees for the Awards for Outstanding Contribution to LOtC (Learning Outside the Classroom) 2017 have been selected and we congratulate all the LOtC Heroes who are going the extra mile to help young people experience the world beyond the classroom walls.

The LOtC Awards recognise individuals and teams of people who have made a significant impact on the lives of children and young people through their commitment to providing and/or championing exciting and inspiring learning outside the classroom opportunities.

We’re proud to say that Jenny Hindson, Communities, Engagement and Volunteer Manager at Food Growing Schools: London partner organisation Trees for Cities has been nominated for an award for her Outstanding Contribution to Learning Outside the Classroom.

Edible Playgrounds

Trees for Cities runs an inspiring project called Edible Playgrounds that transforms areas in school grounds into vibrant outdoor spaces that excite and teach children about growing and eating healthy food. By instilling healthy eating habits at an early age, Edible Playgrounds can help to tackle obesity, food poverty and lack of access to nature head on and provide a platform for fun and engaging lessons that support the school curriculum.

We invite you to support their work and to recognise Jenny Hindson‘s dedication for her excellent work and commitment to improving the lives of children and their families.

Nominations Announced

The winners will be announced at the LOtC Awards dinner at Ingestre Hall Residential Arts Centre next Thursday 16th November 2017, following the CLOtC Conference.

Here are the shortlisted nominees for LOtC Innovator (sponsored by YHA):

  • Jenny Hindson, Trees for Cities
  • Matt Hodgson, British Exploring Society
  • Bethan Painter, Environmental Studies
  • Young Egyptologist Workshop Team, The Egypt Centre Swansea University
  • Matt Hodgson, British Exploring Society
  • Bethan Painter, Environmental Studies
  • Young Egyptologist Workshop Team, The Egypt Centre Swansea University

Read the nominations in more detail for LOtC Heroes here.

Trees for Cities is hiring for Edible Playgrounds programme

Trees for Cities is an ambitious, far-reaching organisation.

Since its inception they have engaged over 65,000 people to plant 500,000 trees focusing on health, food security, and environmental protection and providing opportunities for education and learning through the Edible Playgrounds and Urban Forest programmes.

Edible Playgrounds transform areas in school grounds into vibrant outdoor spaces that excite and teach children about growing and eating healthy food. By instilling healthy eating habits at an early age, they help tackle obesity, food poverty and lack of access to nature head on, and provide a platform for fun and engaging lessons that support the school curriculum.

Now Recruiting

If you have a passion for food growing in schools and are looking for work in London, there are a couple great opportunities to join the Edible Playgrounds team. The roles of Landscape Coordinator and Project Development Officer are currently available- find out more here.

If you’d like to find out more about Edible Playgrounds, click here.

 

 

 

Primary school’s Edible Playground a hit with pupils

Manorfield Primary School, in Tower Hamlets, celebrated the launch of their Edible Playground this summer, receiving a Food for Life Award for their innovative approach to integrating healthy food education into the school curriculum.

Watch this BBC Education video to hear what the pupils had to say about the impact their Edible Playground has made in their lives!

www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/education-40572626/primary-school-s-edible-playground-a-hit-with-pupils

Thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Ernest Cook Trust and City Bridge Trust, Trees for Cities – and their programme partners, Chefs Adopt a School and School Food Matters – have worked with Manorfield to create a eye-catching orange honeycomb trellised fruit and vegetable garden, abundant with seasonal school-grown herbs, salads and vegetables; in addition to a multifunction outdoor classroom area and impressive nature garden, rich in diverse urban wildlife.

The new interactive outdoor space has transformed the way pupils learn about food origins and has provided an opportunity to explore healthy eating through seasonal planting and harvesting lessons throughout the year.

For more information contact the Edible Playgrounds team on 020 7840 5956 or by emailing info@edibleplaygrounds.org