Grow to School has been working with St Thomas Primary School, Deighton since spring 2014. Our remit was to work with staff to plan and deliver an outdoor learning programme that dovetailed with the school’s curriculum and enriched the children’s learning. We were also tasked with working with the children to reinvigorate the school garden.
We work with year 3 on a weekly basis and it has been a wonderful journey and adventure for all involved. During our topic-based sessions we've explored local woodlands where we have built shelters and contextualised basic hunter-gatherer needs - food, water and shelter for our stone-age topic. In the school grounds we created and planted a Tudor herb garden with a wattle and daub fence and considered the medicinal qualities of those herbs in Tudor times. We have stepped back in time to the Egyptians and made mud bricks, used pyramid numbers to plan and build our own pyramids. These are just a few of the topics we have covered.
During our gardening sessions the children have learnt about soils and crop rotation, how and when to harvest their vegetables, how to prepare the growing beds for winter and are now growing winter salads, garlic and beans. Working really hard to establish an amazing and productive garden that now regularly supplies the school kitchen with vegetables and fruit.
Never shying away from the wet or the cold, the children know that there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing! St Thomas has a great outdoor ethic and it is a pleasure to work with such engaged staff and children. By working closely with the inspired leadership team we are really seeing the benefits for all the children, in developing and nurturing additional skills to those advanced in the classroom.
Seeing the children developing team skills and their sheer joy and excitement of exploring and learning outside in the natural environment is one of the most rewarding aspects of our role in schools. One child highlighted the empowerment they felt when given the freedom and responsibility to learn outdoors with the comment: “I like working with Grow, you show me how, and make me feel like I can do things.”
The Head Teacher, David Rushby, and staff are fully behind the project, he comments: "Learning outside is an integral part of our school culture as it allows our children to re-connect with their natural surroundings. However, the challenge lies with taking a national curriculum that is designed to be delivered indoors, out of the building. This requires real consideration to validate for any activity that may be taken out of a classroom context. Through a series of evaluations and some careful collaboration with our Grow to School colleagues, we now have some real meaningful outdoor learning that strengthens our curriculum. Our children and staff now expect to work outside, which would arguably be the most significant achievement throughout the process so far."
Author – Ama Chaney, Grow to School