Supporting the Science Curriculum with Food Growing

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?
Click the image to read our case study.

In particular, science is an aspect of the curriculum that links well on a number of levels to food growing activities.

See our case study Incorporating food growing into the science curriculum for insight and advice from teachers and our team.

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.

He writes:

“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.

This is also backed up by research carried out by the RHS Campaign for school gardening revealing that 70% of the participating schools surveyed used food growing to deliver 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.

RHS Green Plan It challenge

The annual RHS Green Plan It Challenge is back for another year and they are on the lookout for teams of Year 8-9 / S2-3 students to take part.

This is an exciting project designed to get young people thinking about the roles plants play in our lives and why green spaces are so important to us.

What is it?

Green Plan It is a ten week challenge in the Autumn Term, which encourages Year 8 and 9 students to imagine a garden they would like for their school or community.

Your students will work with an industry mentor to carry out research before building a model to bring their ideas to life.

At the end of the challenge, students will compete against other local schools and present their garden designs at a celebration event.

To find out more, please visit the RHS website here or send an email.

New RHS ‘I Can Grow’ project empowers pupils

RHS Campaign for School Gardening launches I Can Grow!

This project is a chance for young people to discover and explore the benefits of gardening, not only to them, but also to their local community and the wider world.

I Can Grow is designed to empower young people, allowing them to create a campaign, using plants, to shout about the environmental and social issues they believe in.

How it works…

First, sign up for a free inspiration pack (register on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website) which will contain a project guide and great resources to get your class or group thinking about and eventually sharing their campaign.

This project is designed to be led by your young people as much as possible so, using the resources, encourage them to think how they could use plants to solve a problem or support a cause that means something to them.

They will be asked to try and link their cause to one or more of these themes…

Please visit the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website to join in and find out more about this exciting new project!

Nominations open for RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2018

Entries are now open!

The RHS Campaign for School Gardening are on the lookout for the most inspirational young gardeners, educators and gardening teams in the UK.

You can read about last year’s finalists and winners here.

Prizes for finalists and winners in 2018 include a stunning Gabriel Ash greenhouse worth £3,425, Gabriel Ash Coldframes, £500 in vouchers, garden tools and unique opportunities to work with RHS and TV gardeners.

See their website for full details.

Developing a whole school approach

If you’ve been following our recent blogs you may have plans for food growing, whether that is allocating some space for food growing, gathering resources, or planning food growing into the curriculum.

Wherever you are on your food-growing journey is very exciting, but the maximum benefits come from instigating a whole school approach to food education.

Essentially this is where understanding about all aspects of food (including growing and healthy eating) has senior management support, is throughout the curriculum and in the school development plan.  It is for all pupils and at all times of the day and even influences the wider community.

It may not be easy but it is definitely worth aiming for and we have some school stories to inspire you!

Rhyl Primary School has won numerous awards for the outdoor learning activities but started with just two small raised beds.  All pupils have regular weekly sessions in the garden and outdoor classroom and the school has plans to build a teaching kitchen giving access to community organisations and families, as well as to be used during the school day.

At John Ruskin Primary adopting a whole school approach has increased take up of school dinners and understanding of where food comes from.  Pupils have developed their social and team skills as well as the more practical gardening skills.

Tim Baker, Headteacher at Charlton Manor Primary is so convinced of the wider benefits of food growing that he is helping other local schools and community projects to grow, sharing allotment space and time with the school’s gardener and the school hosts a parent and child growing club.

Recipe for Success:

  1. Getting support from teachers and building their knowledge is key to getting food growing embedded into the school’s ethos.  There are lots of training events and workshops whether you’re a complete beginner or wanting to take your growing activities to the next level
  2. The Soil Association Food for Life Schools Award is designed to support schools to develop a healthy food culture
  3. The RHS School Gardening Awards help schools to work through five different levels, turning their garden into a valuable learning resource for the whole school and the local community

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. Build support for food growing with teachers and the management team – share FGSL research on the benefits of food growing.
  2. 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.

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!

 

Slug it! Count the slugs in your school garden

RHS Slug it
RHS Slug It!

Slug It! is a brand new initiative to take a closer look at the nation’s most persistent garden pest – the slug!

FGSL partners RHS Campaign for School Gardening are working with the RHS Science team and the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) on a science experiment that will hopefully unearth a bit more about which control methods will help protect our gardens from slug and snail damage.

Hunt for slugs in your school
As part of this research, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) would like you to help them learn more about which slugs are currently terrorising the nation by taking part in their slug mapping activity. In simple terms, they want you to hunt for slugs and count how many you see!

Great for gardening clubs, after-school clubs or STEM clubs
This is a very simple activity to run with your pupils or students and is particularly great for gardening clubs, after-school clubs or STEM clubs. It will help your pupils work scientifically to gather data on the number of slugs in your grounds and also help them learn more about slugs including what they like to eat and the habitats they prefer to live in.

What you need
Anyone can take part in this activity and all you will need is some very basic equipment such as pencils, wellies and torches and our recording form. To go one step further, you can also use a Slug Identification Key to find out which slug is which or use different equipment to measure temperature, humidity and pH levels of soil to work out what conditions slugs like best. All data will be collected by IRIS and loaded onto an interactive map so that you can see how your findings compare with those of other schools.

If you’d like to join the RHS slug hunt, head to Slug It! Mapping Activity and start counting!

Discover FGSL learning resources, activity sheets and growing tools here: Resources

Forget Halloween, celebrate Pumpkin day!

Your school grown pumpkins are plumping up and it’s time to harvest them.  You may want to help the children carve them with funny faces for Halloween but pumpkins are so much more than just a lantern, so don’t miss the pumpkin party and try out some of these ideas.

Once you have carved out your pumpkins, you can put the insides into a mystery box and have the children dig their hands in to fish out treats or identify objects just by feel.

Pumpkin is a really tasty fruit so don’t throw the flesh away, instead create a yummy base for soups by boiling the stringy insides in water, strain, then add any veggies from your plot to the broth to make a delicious soup. Or try roasting wedges with a bit of salt and cumin to make pumpkin chips the kids will love.

And don’t forget to use all those lovely seeds.  Separate the pumpkin seeds from the flesh by rinsing under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel then put some to one side for planting. (More on this in a bit…)

If you’re feeling crafty, colour some seeds with food dye then thread using a needle to create pumpkin bracelets and necklaces. Or poke holes in a plastic bottle to make a bird feeder for your garden, fill with the pumpkin seeds and watch the wildlife flock.

If you’d like to eat them yourselves, roasted seeds can be the best bit of a pumpkin – not only are they delicious but also nutritious.  Just boil in some salted water, then lay on a tray with a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of oil and bake on a high heat for about 20 mins (depending on the size of the seeds).

And lastly, make sure you store some of the larger seeds in a cool dry spot for planting next Spring – check out this guide to growing from one of our partner organisations, the RHS.

RHS Young Herb Photographer of the Year – last chance to enter!

RHS Herb Photographer of the Year. Photo by previous winner Indra Woodward.
RHS Herb Photographer of the Year. Photo by previous winner Indra Woodward.

There are now less than two weeks to get your pupils’ or students’ entries in for this year’s RHS young Herb Photographer of the Year!

RHS have teamed up with Vitacress again for this year’s competition – a great chance for your young photographers to win some fantastic prizes for them and your school or group.

They are looking for young people to send us their photographs of living herbs growing in the wild, a garden, a container or a setting of their choice. The photo can be of any herb(s) and could be growing in the UK or abroad. Photographs can also be from any season taken in the past or present.

Categories and prizes:

There are two categories for the competition: 5-10 year olds and 11-17 year olds. Two winners, one from each category, will be crowned RHS Young Herb Photographer of the Year and receive an iPad Air worth around £300 and £500 worth of horticultural materials for their school. One runner up from each category will receive an iPad Mini and £250 of horticultural materials for their school or group.

Find out more and enter here