A New Dawn

As the Summer draws to an end and the start of a new school year begins, there is much to look forward to as the allotment enters its second season. There is a sunrise waiting on the horizon that will inspire, energise and give much joy to the children as they continue on their journey of discovery in this beautiful place.

Before embarking on new projects though, it was important to finish old ones. The fence around the pond and wildlife area was particularly important to complete, as was the large worktable.

Oakridge is very fortunate to enjoy such great relationships with parents, indeed, the school feels like an extended family at times and this couldn't have been more apparent than last weekend when teachers, children, Mums and Dads joined forces once again to get the jobs done.

First up, the worktable. Back in January, before the allotment had even got out of the ground, a member from the local community made a very generous donation of £500. It was in memory of his late wife, who herself had enjoyed her own allotment and apparently would have loved everything the children are doing on theirs. Given the poignant gesture, it was felt that it might be nice to invest the money in something substantial that would really aid the children’s learning and reflect the scale of the donation. A table was decided upon.

After months of deliberating, a design was finally settled on and the local blacksmith in the village was asked to make the metal frame into which planks would be slotted. The frame was walked up to site a few months ago but had been looking rather bare without a top on.

Given the lengthy process involved in getting the table made, there was a real sense of achievement to see it finally finished. The only outstanding detail is to mount a plaque in memory of the gentleman’s late wife. Thinking aloud, a small informal ceremony might be a nice way to mark the occasion, perhaps conducted by the local vicar and accompanied by the teachers, children, the gentleman himself and any parents who wish to attend. The allotment has helped to galvanise the school with the community and so it would be a nice way to maintain positive relationships with those who have been so kind as to show their support for the scheme and school as a whole.

The main job for the weekend though was the fence. Corner posts had been erected a few months ago but the whole thing was in desperate need of finishing. It was a fairly big undertaking but with great Oakridge spirit the job got done. By the end of Saturday the remaining holes for the fence posts had been dug, setting out completed and the top run fixed.

The beauty of the allotment is that you never know what you’re going to find. The opportunity of being caught by surprise is rather fun and what really delights the children. Back in the Spring for example, a dead rat was found and subsequently buried, (it’s due to be dug up soon and its skeleton studied), so you can imagine the excitement when the children found a dead frog at the bottom of the pond! Of course, they all wanted to look at it but none of them were brave enough to actually stick their hand in and retrieve it. That lovely task fell to one of the parents.

The skeleton was wonderfully preserved and provided an impromptu and insightful lesson into anatomy, form and function. Although still slightly decomposing, the children were fascinated by the toe bones in particular. They were so beautifully formed it was easy for them to imagine how the webbed skin could stretch over them. Their sense of curiosity was wonderful to see and really brought home why the allotment is so important: intrigue and unpredictability abound.

Work progressed rapidly on Sunday, so much so that come Monday morning the fence was looking rather majestic against the early morning sun. It’s such a beautiful time of the day, with just the song birds for company and the occasional, curious deer. Such animals make far better company than people. If children could experience a dawn chorus session, perhaps snuggled under blankets with hot chocolates in hands, it might be just what they need to get inspired by nature and appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors.