Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris got together to create this book, ‘The Lost Words: a spell-book’, published in 2017, in response to lots of nature words being dropped from the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. The words included acorn, adder, bluebell, buttercup, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, lark, newt, otter, wren and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. To many, this signalled the widening gap between children and the natural world.
The aim is to get a copy of this book to all London schools in order to try to close this gap. In the words of the Guardian, it is ‘a cultural phenomenon’, and what Chris Packham has called ‘a revolution’. Communities and individuals have raised over £60,000 to achieve this, starting with a campaign for the whole of Scotland (more than 2500 primary schools). Now, copies of the book are being delivered by bicycle (one man cycling 400 miles back and forth across Dorset), by sea kayak to outlying island schools, or in the company of barn and tawny owls (brought into schools by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust).
Tress for Cities have set up a crowdfunder page which has already helped deliver ‘The Lost Words’ to schools in Haringey, Lambeth and Wandsworth. Now, we want to bring the magical book to the rest of London’s maintained primary and special schools. If you want to support this, please visit the link below:
Food Growing Schools: London encourages schools to use the school garden and food growing activities to deliver the curriculum because of the many benefits, including increased attainment for pupils engaging in learning in this way (discover the benefits of school food growing here).
Why focus on the science curriculum?
In particular, science is an aspect of the curriculum that links well on a number of levels to food growing activities.
FGSL Engagement Officer, Nick Ives, has worked with teachers and school staff across London, helping host teachers’ forums and twilight sessions to share ideas and practical steps for best practice.
“Increasingly, I’ve found that schools respond very positively to using food growing activities to deliver Science. Food growing lends itself well to many of the processes and concepts involved in Science.
I always kick off a training session with teachers or pupils by asking: what are the five key things we need to get anything to grow?
Even the most unconfident growers will get the first four – Seeds, Soil, Water, Sun! Each of these four ideas make excellent jumping off places to deliver Science. The fifth being YOU ie the gardeners to pull all these together!
A quick brainstorm of possible links to the first four will include, plant growth, seed germination, rocks weathering to different soil types, decomposition of organic matter vs plastics, insect pollination, habitats eg compost heap invertebrates, predators and prey, movement of planets ie Earth’s seasons, water cycle – to name a few! Of course growing organically increases one’s chances of exploring associated biodiversity – little compares to witnessing the joy of watching ladybird larvae munching aphids or seeing ants fight off ladybirds because they want to protect their honeydew producing aphid farms!
All great stuff to observe and discuss.
If you fancy linking the science of growing to supermarkets and eating habits, a simple investigation is to buy a range of lentils, peas and beans and try a germination test on them – you’ll surprise yourself!”
For more of our case studies about food growing in schools, visit this page.
Watch this RHS Campaign for school gardening video below celebrating 10 years and mentioning the top subjects that are taught in the school garden.
How can lessons learned from Food Growing Schools: London’s project successes be applied to supporting the development of more sustainable food systems?
Food Growing Schools: London project elevators from the University of the West of England and University of Cardiff have assessed our work since the project was launched and have used their findings to examine how cities can support innovative strategies to respond to new challenges in food systems.
This article in the journal Sustainability discusses and explores some key points in the winder context, as the abstract outlines:
“Cities have emerged as leaders in food system innovation and transformation, but their potential can be limited by the absence of supportive governance arrangements.
This study examined the value of Food Growing Schools London (FGSL) as a programme seeking city-wide change through focusing on one dimension of the food system. Mixed methods case study research sought to identify high-level success factors and challenges.
Findings demonstrate FGSL’s success in promoting food growing by connecting and amplifying formerly isolated activities. Schools valued the programme’s expertise and networking opportunities, whilst strategic engagement facilitated new partnerships linking food growing to other policy priorities.
Challenges included food growing’s marginality amongst priorities that direct school and borough activity. Progress depended on support from
individual local actors so varied across the city. London-wide progress was limited by the absence of policy levers at the city level.
Experience from FGSL highlights how city food strategies remain
constrained by national policy contexts, but suggests they may gain traction through focusing on well-delineated, straightforward activities that hold public appeal.
Sustainability outcomes might then be extended through a staged approach using this as a platform from which to address other
This term pupils at Warren Street Primary, winners of our summer Grow Your Own Picnic competition, gratefully accepted a £500 voucher prize donated byGarden Site, to put towards their school food growing efforts.
Warren Street Primary – a food growing school in Bromley
“We grow vegetables in the school garden and when we have a good harvest, we sell the food to the school kitchen as well as to parents after school,” said Tom Bateson, Sustainability Leader at Warren Street Primary.
“This means that we can return the money back into the Eco budget to grow more plants the following year.”
But Mr. Bateson explained,”the door on our current greenhouse has broken and is too dangerous for children to go into now, so we’ll be unable to grow plants over the winter.”
“Now thanks to this prize, we’re looking to get a brand new greenhouse and some other items from Garden Site to allow the pupils to keep growing food and to support outdoor learning all year round.”
See the benefits of food growing and outdoor learning for schools, pupils and the wider community here.
About the prize donated by Garden Site
GardenSite, one of the UK’s leading online garden retailers teamed up with FGSL during the summer term to offer a generous prize of a £500 voucher, which can be used to purchase gardening items from their range of around 10,000 products.
Whether it be a new greenhouse or shedfor the school grounds or even a selection of garden planters perfect for growing a wide variety of fruit and veg, the £500 can be spent on a huge variety of products to help maximise the school’s growing potential.
Growing your own, all year round
If you’re in need of inspiration on what to grow, GardenSite have a handy guide on What to Grow In Your Greenhouse which covers the entire year.
See Garden Organic’s month by month guide for what to do in your garden here.
Thanks to all the schools that participated in our competition – we wish you a fantastic year.
Termly blog by Chris Collins on How to Create and Grow a School Garden
During the end of the summer months, though days are shorter, there is still plenty to keep us busy in our gardens.
Summer crops can be removed and dug into the compost bin and soil dug over and made ready for a fresh crop of plants for both winter and next spring.
What to plant now
Broad beans are a great crop to get in now, as the soil is still reasonably warm.
Quicker crops like Spinach, winter mix salad leaves and Chard can all be sown in open ground and can be grazed through the late winter months.
It may be worth investing a small amount of money in a roll of fleece from the local garden centre, this can be pinned down over your newly sown seeds and will protect them on cold nights and give them a strong start.
Any ground or raised beds you don’t plan to use over winter should be sown with a green manure. A mustard crop, sown thickly on empty ground can prevent weeds colonising your ground and can be dug into the soil, in spring to keep your soil healthy.
The onset of the dark months is no barrier to growing fresh food – don’t miss out on those beautiful autumn days.
The autumn is also the time of year to plant bulbs. These are the Jack-in-a-box of the plant world, staying low below the ground they are spring loaded to appear in the spring when the soil warms up.
For food plant some Garlic now but for colour there is an array of beautiful plants for your school to enjoy.
Set aside a piece of ground in a border, raised bed or even large pot. Plant a mix of bulbs to flower next year , Snowdrop (Jan, Feb) Crocus (Feb, March) Daffodil (March / April), Tulip (April / May) Allium (May).
You can get a run of three to four months of colour from bulbs and mixing the types really gives an amazing display.
There is further good news as bulb are pretty cheap to buy.
When it comes to planting and looking after bulbs there are two main rules, plant them the depth of a trowel’s head (up to the handle) and make sure you leave the foliage at least 6 weeks after they have stopped flowering. One final tip is, bulbs like Daffodil and Crocus can be naturalised, meaning they can be planted out permanently in a lawn or around the base of trees, where they will flower year after year.
See more advice from Garden Organic about sourcing and planting organic bulbs here.
How to grow a Willow wall
A great winter project is to produce your own Willow wall. It’s worth finding out if any schools in your area are already growing Willow. If so, see if you can get some cuttings. These cuttings will need to be taken by a teacher.
They are last years growth on the plant, strong shoots (see photo) that have grown and ripened over the summer. Cut them at about 20 cm length with a straight cut below a node, this is a swelling on the wood were leaves will grow. At the other end of the cutting cut a sloped cut above a node, this way you’ll remember which way up your cutting goes.
Now it’s time to get the children involved. Bundle up the cuttings in groups of 20, bind them together with twine. Dig a trench 15cm deep on a north facing wall and fill it with 5 cm of sand. Bury the bundles in the trench and put back the soil. You should now have 5cm of Willow cuttings sticking out the ground, you can now forget all about these cuttings until next spring when you can dig them up, they will have rooted and you can plant your own Willow wall. I recommend 5 to 10 bundles to get you going. The other advantage of taking these cuttings is there is plenty of curriculum involved – biology and maths for a starter.
Making leaf mould compost
A further project for the autumn is to make some leaf mould. Don’t waste the great bonanza that is falling leaves.
A quick bit of construction involving four wooden stakes and some chicken wire makes a square cage. Get the children to collect any leaves in the school grounds and fill this ‘cage’ with leaves.
In a couple of seasons, you will have the perfect seed sowing compost. This uses a natural gift from Mother Nature, saves money and is great exercise!
Find out about making leaf mould and how to use it on the Garden Organic website here.
Finally, remember our small friends the birds at this time of year, put out food and water to help them out, they are an important part of the garden.
Pumpkins are lots of fun for pupils to grow and see who can grow the biggest one, to carve for Halloween or to save seeds for next year.
While pumpkins are a popular decoration in the autumn season, they can also provide the basic ingredients for many fun recipes pupils can enjoy cooking the school kitchen!
The flesh of a pumpkin can be baked into a loaf and the abundance of seeds found inside can be roasted with herbs to add flavour.
Download this pdfwith recipes for a delicious pumpkin loaf and sweet and savoury roasted pumpkin seeds – many thanks to Garden Organic’s Growthteam for trying, testing and adapting these recipes to perfection!
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!
The deadline for submissions is Monday 1 October 2018, so please ensure you have your submissions in before then.
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.
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”.
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.
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”.
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Monthly blog by Chris Collins on How to Create and Grow a School Garden
Summer sun and watering advice
Well, the word at the moment is definitely sunshine and it really is beautiful weather. What a great time to be outside and enjoying all that nature offers!
It is though quite a tough time for plants and the dryness causes plants to feel stressed. This is not a problem as long as you’re doing your job as a gardener and seeing to their needs.
Watering of course is the job of such importance at the moment and it’s vital we get this job right.
First thing is – no hosepipes! Not because they are a banned, it’s just it’s not a good way to water in this heat. Water your plants by catering can and water to the base of your plants. Scorching can occur on the leaves if they get wet. Also spraying with a hose tends to just water the air as this heat soon soaks it up. You can use your hose, if you have one to fill your watering cans.
The other vital aspect of watering in this weather is the timing. Make sure the temperature is as cool as possible when watering your plants; early in the morning is the best time for a school.
Composting and weeding
Composting around your plants will also help keep those fine roots near the surface, especially the larger ones.
Remember also, to keep pulling those weeds, they will compete for water in this hot weather and many of then set their seeds much quicker in the hot weather.
Looking ahead – using curriculum activities
As the term comes to an end it’s also maybe a good time to think about what next for your garden area. You have your raised beds up and running so how about thinking about the design of the area.
A great Maths class is to measure your area and produce a scale drawing.
A great Art class is to sit down and design the garden, you could give a theme or think about connecting it to the school, its history or any stand out projects the school may have done.
This is great fun and a fantastic way to learn.
Harvesting your hard work
Hopefully you will now also be picking some of your crops. All your hard work will now mean you get to enjoy and maybe eat your produce. Remember when picking crops like Runner beans, to twist them first, so they snap cleanly from the plant. This avoids infection and fungus getting into the plant if it is damaged.
Similarly, when digging plants out, like Lettuce, remove the plant as cleanly as possible, don’t leave old leaves and refuse on the beds to encourage slugs and other problems.
How can parents, guardians and volunteers help?
However, the biggest challenge over the summer, is that schools break up.
How do we water the plants that have not been cropped? Hand watering is always best. Can you raise volunteers to help you with this?
Produce a newsletter with all your great work. Send it out to parents and grandparents to see if they would like to help and get involved.
Producing this newsletter would also make a great end of term project for the children and again could be tied in with the curriculum.
Another watering trick
There are some tricks you can use to help you with thirsty plants over the summer. We have already mentioned mulching and composting.
You can also use old plastic water bottles.
Remove the lid and fill the bottle with water. Then cover the mouth of the bottle with seven or eight layers of cling film, which then should be pierced with a sowing needle. Place upside down at the base of your plants and the water will slowly drain over a number of days, thus reducing your watering.
Well, I hope that helps and happy gardening and I wish you a great summer hols!