Monday, 26 November 2012


The weather has been particularly unpleasant of late, but we've still managed to get outside for some parts of our lessons. The wind has made areas with trees no-go-areas which has made getting to the veg patches tricky. There have been lots of puddles to jump in though, so my youngest classes have been having a whale of a time - some much more literally than others!

I decided to get the children involved in the planning of the vegetable plots (which will be a much easier task when they have Growers' Nation to help with advice). It's important to give them ownership of the project and to involve them in as many steps as possible. We've decided to make a calendar with our favourite outdoor activity ideas for each month to sell in order to buy seeds.

We made a list of the crops we would like to grow, I was impressed that they had chosen to include a wide variety from strawberries to Brussels sprouts (although I'm not going to be keen to taste these!) Each child researched when their crop should be planted then we looked at the busiest months and those with the least to plant. We spent time talking about how the time of year affects what can be grown and also about how the climates of different countries make growing certain crops possible or impossible. The children were also able to link the idea of light levels to the plants ability to photosynthesise, so I can tick that learning objective off for science!

The next step is going to be costing out the area and working on budgets. Of course, some of the class will need simplified costs for seeds in order to be able to manage it, but they will learn that there is a cost to setting up the plots and hopefully will see the money saved on produce when the harvest comes in. I'm sure they will take great pleasure in using maths in a less theoretical manner and there will definitely be competition between classes to see who can make the best use of their money.

To keep warm while we were outside, we collected piles of fallen leaves. We've used them to create a mulch to fertilise the soil and hopefully to keep some of the weeds at bay. The children decided to set up an experiment where they only mulched half of the patch - we'll have to wait and see if they can see a difference when we come back to the plot later in the school year.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Fresh air and freedom

Today was my first day back at work for a week and a half. I think I may have been bitten by a semi-radioactive hamster which would explain my swollen neck and dreams of zorbing, unfortunately I didn't develop any superpowers and luckily the other symptoms have now passed. It was lovely to be back.

The weeding is very nearly complete - phew! I know I'm beginning to get tired of asking the children to pull things up and I'm sure they must be close to their limit of enjoyment racing to see who can collect the biggest pile of weeds in a lesson. Anyone reading the children's blog will be pleased to hear that there are no potatoes left in the patch - so there may be a change of topic soon. They seem to understand that their work will be worth it in the end and enjoy the freedom to chat away as they work.

The class are very enthusiastic when they talk about the fruit and vegetables they want to grow, not to mention the ones they don't! Strawberries were very popular as was butternut squash. We spoke briefly about the times of year certain crops are harvested and during the afternoon the children were on the look out for factors which may affect the growth of their crops. It didn't take them long to mention the increase in rain that we've had recently and many children also talked about the shorter days (it would seem they were listening when we were looking at photosynthesis earlier this morning!)

I have sent them home at the end of the day suggesting they could look at seasonal vegetables and to try to think of something which will survive the British winter. I overheard one lad mutter to his friend something about oranges, but I'm pleased to report there was a cheeky grin on his face.

The weather is set to get worse as the week goes on. I think I may get my younger group to try to construct a contraption to collect rain water. School have already got a water butt attached to our gutters, but I think we could have something with a water wheel and other exciting features. After all, it's fun to play with water and the activity may inspire them to create something wonderful in their own garden too!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Is that really how it grows?

After waking at 4am with the sound of the rain on my roof tiles, I donned my thermals ready for an aftenoon filled with very soggy children and multiple reminders on the importance of keeping wellington boots outside of the classroom. Luckily, following a morning of dropping Alice and the White Rabbit from the ceiling and pondering the potential of the Cheshire Cat's gravity defying abilities, (all in the name of our forces investigation,) the sky appeared to run out of water - phew!

The children were really excited to read their blog live for the first time and the authors, although proud, could see ways to improve it. Saying that, they did well considering they only had 5 minutes to type it before the excitement of an Olympian in class! They'll be even more impressed when they see the map which shows who's been reading - they've got 4 countries coloured in already (I've also got the atlases on stand-by in anticipation of them wanting to find out which ones!)

It was the final group's first chance to garden today, and most seemed keen to crack on. The fact that a younger class* had made fantastic progress on the weeding last Wednesday meant they had something to aim for.

As the girls were pulling up the "anti-weed" carpet, which had become a small ecosystem; the boys in the group came across some more evidence of previous veg. patch activity. Nestling amongst the thistles were six yellowing maize plants - all with fruit. The excitement of some of the group to see the stucture of the plants was fascinating, calling other groups over to share what they'd learnt. I often forget that, although these children are from rural backgrounds, they are of the generation where food comes pre-packaged from the supermarket and requires no more thought. I hope that soon, I'll be able to share with them the importance of growing, not just on a local scale but for their understanding of the wider world and the communities the Pinapple Project, Grower's Nation's sister project, is hoping to help.

*You should hear from Year 4 very soon - expect to hear things described as "epic!" fairly frequently!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Wonderful weeding.

It was the first session outdoors for my Year 5 class today (age 9,) and one third of the children had their first taste of gardening. The sadly neglected allotment area at our Forest School was only distinguishable from the rest of the area as the lack of grass had allowed the weeds to grow taller than the majority of the children!

The children worked hard for the afternoon, digging and weeding and made a good start of clearing the area. "Miss, I've found a potato!" was quickly followed by "Oh wait, no. It's a rock!" We did find a very small bulb which smelt of onions, which together we decided was probably a shallot; we left it for the slugs to eat, seeing as they were out in force because of the rain.

When feeding back to the rest of the class, I asked the children to decide upon two adjectives which described their task. "Dirty and disgusting!" said one half of the group which was quickly matched by "Muddy and marvelous!"from the other. I wonder if they'll always alliterate their adjectives... we'll have to see! Hopefully they'll start their blog next week.

Monday, 3 September 2012

One day to go...

Officially back to school tomorrow, after two days of unofficially being in schools sorting forests and bouncing ideas off colleagues. Lovely to see everyone again. The sun has finally returned, just in time for an introduction to outdoor learning. It'll be nice to finally put the 120+ names to faces as I meet my newest classes in the coming week.

The veg patch at our established site has grown amazingly over the summer - I just need some recipes for dandelion, nettle and tomato delicacies and cooking is sorted for the next month! There were also some very impressive looking onions and some giant carrots poking through the soil, all credit to MW and the children who worked hard on the veg patch last year!

Time for a cup of tea, a bit of reading, then an early night before tomorrow's early start!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

One week to go!

It's the final week of the holidays here in Devon and I'm busily trying to get the next term's lessons planned taking inspiration from stories. If I have time, I'm going to try to search out some schools to share ideas and outcomes; successes and learning opportunities. Oh and I need to head to the garden centre for some supplies.

This year marks the start of a new project at my Forest Schools: developing, testing and refining some of the Grower's Nation Education resources and lessons for primary schools. The more time I spend thinking about the project the more avenues my brain seems to wander down. There's so much potential for maths, English and science before we even leave the classroom to work on social skills and physical strength in the veg. patch; but we'll be out there (unless there's a storm or high wind) from week one.

The app developers and researchers are hard at work sorting out the Grower's Nation app, which I know the children will love to use. I'm hoping that we can make a start on interviewing local gardeners for the wiki when the ground becomes too cold and hard for little hands to work on.

I'm excited about getting the children I work with more involved with growing their own produce and hopefully we'll be able to cook some over the fire too. I'm also hoping that some of the children will be writing a few blogs to give you their perspective of the project, after all it's their experiences that matter!