Gardening on the curriculum

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25 January 2016 by Anne Heavey
On Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting Grassmoor Primary School in Chesterfield and I wanted to share some of what I saw.

Grassmoor has a unique curriculum, in which gardening plays a huge part.

Each year group, from reception through to year 6, experience a rich gardening curriculum in which they maintain a variety of planters, beds, poly tunnels, show gardens and a community allotment.

Even in the January cold these areas are beautifully maintained and it is obvious that they are valued by the students. Children tend the various gardens year round, come rain or shine, and take great pride in their achievements. They even enter gardening competitions and have won several awards with their show gardens.

Here are the drain pipe planters (reception look after these):


The school allotment sits inside a community allotment site and is tended by the whole school. The beds are beautifully maintained and contain a huge variety of produce:


Here is one of the poly tunnels:Polythene_tunnel

And this is an example of one of their show gardens:


As well as growing the many plants, the children also eat the produce and learn how to cook with it. The tasting and cooking curriculum helps promote a healthy diet, and the children enjoy tasting all the food that they grow. This gives the children a really strong understanding of 'plot to plate'.

Here is the tasting menu:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Winter purslane
  • Spinach
  • Lamb’s lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Coriander
  • Beetroot
  • Grapes
  • Gooseberries
  • White currants
  • White strawberries
  • Soups using the vegetables
  • Vegetable stir fry
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Steamed vegetables

Through the gardening curriculum the children develop many skills and attributes that support the wider curriculum, as well as the core skills and knowledge necessary to tend a garden. These skills include:

  • Project planning and research (which include a wide range of literacy and numeracy activities)
  • Public speaking at gardening shows
  • Scientific understanding of how plants grow and the conditions that they need to flourish
  • Team working and inclusion – everyone gets involved and shares in the successes of each project
  • Physical fitness (when three tons of potting compost arrived in a heap on the playground everyone rolled their sleeves up and got it sorted)
  • Well-being and mental health – it has long been known that gardening supports positive mental health and happiness and can be used to combat stress.

When we read so many scary stories about young people facing a mental health crisis, gardening can be one strategy we use to promote mindfulness and good mental health. It would be unfair of me to suggest that gardening is the only thing that makes Grassmoor a great school - the moment I walked in the door it was obvious that I was in safe, warm and ambitious place.

The children and staff were extremely generous and welcoming during our visit and gardening is just one part of what makes the school special. I wish I could have stayed much longer than an afternoon.

I am convinced that gardening can be of huge benefit to children and where we can, we should develop this wonderful skill through the curriculum.

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Thanks for your visit and the great report you have given our gardening!

Fantastic and inspirational!! Well done to all involved!

Thanks for your comment; the school, and my motion to ATL Conference2016, was featured in The Sunday Times News Review Section page 8 on 13th April 2016,