Gardening at St. Albans School

Speaker: Julie Newman
Date: 28th March
Year: 2018

Julie Newman has been teaching for 30 years. She explained at the start that although she doesn’t have any gardening qualifications her keen interest has developed and grown over the years.

In 2008 she started an after-school gardening club with a 2 Metre square nectar garden. This project has grown over the years, with the school now nationally acclaimed for being bee friendly.

An achievement we were all impressed with and which pricked our interest for the rest of the evening. Julie provided us with beautiful slides to enhance the talk, showing work in progress, achievements and students work.

St Albans’ gardening provision has grown from that small nectar garden to now include a good outdoor space with mature trees, a pond with frogs and newts, raised beds of vegetables, flowers and herbs, an outdoor classroom and the latest edition; a meadow replacing an old and rather large hedge.

From choosing and growing, to harvest, preparation, cooking and of course eating the produce, everything seems to tick a box somewhere in the school curriculum, right down to the art work on slates labeling the produce.

Julie explained how most of the school children really enjoy their engagement with gardening and how it can be used in relation to the various subjects. Planning and planting involves a lot of maths calculations, especially when they planted a woven willow dome for their prayer garden.

The garden has been found to help children when they are troubled; planting bulbs or visiting and tending plants planted earlier in the year provides good therapy and gives a chance for all children to shine. It provides the children with a sense of achievement and social well-being.

The school has joined in with a number of projects, from an in-house school competition to grown potatoes, Hampshire Trailblazers (learning to learn outside, caring for world around us), Wisley palette garden competition, school’s scarecrow exhibitions at Hampton Court, and the Wildlife Big School Bird Watch.

Between 2011-2013 the school achieved the RHS level 4 school garden scheme which requires links to the curriculum, sustainability, children’s involvement in design and fundraising.

On sports days seeds that have been collected from sunflowers and other plants grown in school are sold along with small plants that the children have raised from seed or taken from runners.

In celebration of the garden produce there are picnics of school grown salads, art projects and research into plants and wildlife living in it. 

We were reliably informed that the children love worms, counting spiders, making homes for hedgehogs but are particularly fascinated by the many different varieties of bees.

Bees have become a large part of the school curriculum. A hunt of knitted bees helps reception children learn to identification.

Apple iPad’s are used by the older children for art and information. A bee wall has been created to encourage visitors, not forgetting all the bee friendly planting.

The children were awarded a DEFRA bees needs award and are part of Polli:nataion – a 260 school strong initiative to make a difference for bees. They have even managed to get the local pharmaceutical company; Pfizer to sign up to the challenge of encouraging bees.

We were told how a lot of children have taken up the pollination challenge and have planted insect friendly patches of one square metre.  The progress of these is posted on line under #pollipromise

I think it is fair to say we were all inspired by tonight’s talk.

The question now is will you take up the challenge?

Find out more about the pollination promise: ​
https://www.opalexplorenature.org/node/4698

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