Six Month Reflection

Its been six months since the school acquired its allotment and what a busy time its been. What started as a lumpy patch of grass has been transformed into a productive plot that now boasts six raised vegetable beds, a pond, wildlife area, wildflower meadow, a rainwater harvesting system, plastic bottle greenhouse, shed and teaching area. The transformation is all thanks to a big effort from pupils, parents and staff who have worked tirelessly in order to create this valuable learning resource for the school.

A successful fundraising campaign that began in January also generated £600 and a further £500 came from a generous donation from a private individual. The latter donation is being invested in a large work table for the children. It has been built by local blacksmith, William Pankhurst, and he finished it only yesterday! A plaque will be made and fixed to the table in memory of the donor’s late wife, who would have loved the allotment and everything the school is striving to achieve.


The Plot

The Oakridge allotment site is situated in a beautiful spot nestled just on the outskirts of the village. There’s not a house to be seen, just soaring skies and the sounds of song birds. The school plot is a full size one but it’s easily filled with thirty seven children! The school doesn’t have a playground of its own as such, but is fortunate to have access to the two adjacent quintessential village greens. It’s rather like travelling back in time when you see the children all playing outside together.

This lack of outdoor space was the inspiration behind the allotment. Think of it as an extension of the school, where classroom learning is brought to life. Theories the children can only read about in books can be put into practice here. It engages them on a level that goes above and beyond the criteria of the National Curriculum. It beggars belief that this type of learning, one that satisfies the children’s natural curiosity and generates such wonderful enthusiasm, isn’t a core part of the education system. Learning could be so much more enriched as a result.

The school allotment has been warmly received and backed by the local and wider community. Local press and radio have given the initiative great coverage, which has provided a good marketing opportunity for the school. Local community groups, Down to Earth and Stroud Valleys Project, have also shown great support, giving the children worm and soil workshops as well as passing on words of advice to parent volunteers.

November 2018

May 2019


The Raised Beds

The school was incredibly fortunate to receive a very generous donation from Jewson’s in Stroud, who kindly supplied and delivered all the wood for the raised beds free of charge. There was over £200 worth of timber, so it really was a very kind gesture. Both class one and class two have their own beds for school specific topics and activities while the other four beds have been put to good purpose and planted up with a wonderful assortment of vegetables, all chosen by the children. From broad beans and runners, potatoes, peas and pumpkins, squashes and sweet peas, lettuces and tomatoes, the children have enjoyed being involved in the process of sowing seeds and watching them grow.

Back in February the children had a visit from MP David Drew, Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He has been extremely supportive of everything the school is trying to do and even helped the children plant their seed potatoes! From that first meeting an important relationship has formed. The school is looking forward to welcoming David back in the Autumn for a spot of seed saving.

Speaking of which, the school has become a member of the Heritage Seed Library, which means the children can now call themselves Seed Guardians. We are the first school in Gloucestershire to hold this accolade, which is really special. It is a great opportunity for the children to be involved in important conservation work. They will be responsible for rescuing heirloom orphan vegetable treasures from extinction and in so doing secure the genetic diversity of our food.

There are important cultural and scientific reasons for growing old kinds of vegetables. Seeds carry stories through generations, and also across continents. There is a surprising amount of history to be taught through this cross-curriculum subject. Few beans can be as poignant as the Cherokee Trail of Tears. In the winter of 1838-39, Cherokee people in the US were forced to march from their lands in Georgia, over the Smoky Mountains; 4,000 died on the way. The shiny black bean the Cherokee took with them is an important heirloom seed and has been grown in Britain for a long time. Seed conservation is important, but by growing these old varieties - many of which have adapted to very local conditions - more can be understood about their adaptability to climate change, pests and diseases.

January 2019

May 2019


The Pond

The pond has really begun to settle into the landscape. From its first conception on a cold and rainy day in January, where the Dad’s did such a good job at digging THAT hole, it is now starting to flourish with life. The children have so enjoyed watching the frog spawn develop - the pond is teaming with hundreds of tadpoles. There really is nothing more delightful than watching the children participate in the most simple of pleasures that is pond dipping.

So much wonderful work has gone on in this area over the last few months, the highlight being the dry stone walling workshop the children did with Adrian Montague. They all absolutely loved the experience. So rewarding to see them learning, and appreciating, this age old tradition, which taught them about the value of patience and hard work, values that are so important in this digital world in which they live. Work in this area is ongoing, with the erection of the fence underway in order to make the pond safe.

January 2019

May 2019


The Team

The success of the allotment over the last six months reflects the positive relationship the school enjoys with the parents. Education, in the true sense of the word, really is a team effort. It’s a close knit group of people who all share the same ideal - to provide something better for the children.

This photo is just a snippet of all the people who have been involved in the project so far. Mr Williams, the interim head, has been a beacon of support. Big thanks to him for having such faith in other people’s ideas and for letting the concept find its feet and flourish. The class one and class two teachers and teaching assistants have worked miracles with the current National Curriculum. Despite its limitations, opportunities have been created. None were more so apparent than on World Book Day when an author visited the allotment. Story telling, reading, acting and engaged learning were at the very roots. The children took that experience back to the classroom and it provided weeks of learning opportunities with amazing outcomes.

The Future

The school hopes to have the plastic bottle greenhouse finished by the end of the Summer term. The fence for the pond is due to be completed by the end of term as well. The large work bench has literally just been finished and is ready to be carried up to the allotment right now!

Looking a little further ahead at the 2019/2020 school year. Come the Autumn the children will receive their free trees for schools pack. Two hundred and forty saplings are due to be delivered thanks to the Woodland Trust. The trees will form part of a native hedging scheme that will wrap around the perimeter of the allotment creating a more defined area. It will also create an important new habitat for birds and other animals. Saplings have been carefully selected in order to provide the children with as many learning opportunities as possible. From working wood such as willow and hazel to a wild harvest from which the children can make jams and jellies through to wildlife hedging. The children will be involved in all aspects of planting.

As with all the projects the school undertakes on the allotment, the emphasis is always on the children and involving the community as much as possible so that the village and the school can feel the full weight of each other’s support. With that in mind, there has been suggestion of inviting local residents, friends and families to plant one of the Woodland Trust’s trees in memory of a loved one, therefore really unifying the space and all that it stands for.

Perhaps most important to the future of Oakridge school’s allotment is the appointment of the new head teacher, Mr Jonathan Preston, who takes on the role full time in September. Teachers, parents and pupils have great faith that he will cement the strong foundations that have already been laid on the allotment so that future generations of Oakridge children can enjoy the enormous benefits that outdoor learning brings.

Gardening Club #13

This week’s gardening club was a family special as work got underway to build the fence to make the pond area secure. It was lovely to see so many parents and children stepping in to lend a hand. Despite the downpour, it didn’t dampen spirits, as these two lovely ladies can testify!

Some children helped to dig the holes for the fence posts, which is not an easy task given how stoney the soil is…

…while others tried their hand with the post driver, using some interesting techniques!

A bit more muscle was required, so some of the Dad’s stepped in.

The tractor tyre planters are a great new addition that not only add extra growing space but also double up really well as seats!

Children’s imaginations have the run of the great outdoors - canes make great fishing rods!

After all that digging, a wheelbarrow makes an easy resting place for weary legs and arms.

A few of the parents organised a BBQ for the hard working team, the food and warmth was a welcome relief from the rather drizzly, cold conditions.

This was the first time that some parents had been to the allotment so it was lovely to see some new enthusiasm! There were four rather large holes that needed to be dug, before dropping in each post and back filling with a dry sand/cement mix.

Spending time on the allotment is an opportunity for parents and children to get together and do something constructive. It’s always very satisfying to see just how much can be achieved when a group of people come together with one common purpose - to provide something better for their children.

Plastic Bottle Greenhouse Prep Work

Over the last few months, local recycling company, Print Waste, have been collecting and storing 650 plastic bottles for the school’s plastic bottle greenhouse project.

The bottles were delivered to school a few weeks ago and this afternoon, work got underway as the children helped to prepare them ready for installation on site.

It’s a relatively simple concept: remove lids and labels and cut the bottom off, grab a cane and slot the bottles into each other so they fit nice and snug. The canes are then inserted into the frame of a greenhouse.

It was a pretty sticky, filthy job but none of the children seemed to be put off by this, they loved it! Some worked in pairs…

…while others just took themselves away and quietly got on with it. Between them, the children managed to prep half the bottles and will finish off the rest over the coming weeks. The greenhouse will be up and running by the end of the Summer term.

BBC Radio Gloucestershire - Breakfast Show

Since getting the allotment out of the ground in November last year, it has received great support from the local and wider community. All the good work the children have been doing has been well publicised in local papers and on local radio stations. It has really helped to promote the school.

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On this occasion, the children met a journalist from BBC Radio Gloucestershire. The programme aired on their popular breakfast show this morning.

Click on the link below to hear what the children and parents had to say.

Rainwater Harvesting

After a week off, gardening club was back with a bang today as the irrigation system that class 2 had designed was installed on the allotment. The session was led by the class 2 teacher and attended by many of the KS2 children.

The irrigation project follows up the topic of rainwater harvesting systems that the children have been studying as one of their geography topics in school. The class 2 teacher felt the children’s understanding of the subject would be bolstered by a practical, hands on session, allowing them to put theory into practice, and bring learning to life.

This model is just one of the designs the children came up with. A raised water butt is connected to the raised beds using a hose.

The children began by moving large breeze blocks into position for the water butt to sit on. Nearly every activity on the allotment teaches the children about the importance of team work, it’s a lesson that never gets old.

With the help of a parent, the children enjoyed some DT by putting the guttering together. They offered it up to the shed to check the length was correct.

With careful supervision, the children had a go with hand tools including saws and drills. They helped to cut down to size the batons that the guttering system would be fixed to the shed with.

There was much measuring and holding ends of wood up, which some of the children were only just tall enough to do!

What’s so lovely about the allotment is that there is always so much fun to be had. Outdoor learning isn’t always about being set a specific activity, much of the learning that children do comes through play, be that with friends jumping up and down on giant tractor tyres…

…or pushing friends around in wheelbarrows. At the allotment children learn a lot about who they are, what they’re good at and how to develop confidence.

The children all had a go at cutting the guttering down to the right size...

…and when it was too tough, they watched and listened.

An impromptu tug of war fight commenced with an old piece of rope the children found lying on the ground. Really lovely stuff.

Once the guttering system was fitted, it needed testing to check it worked. It was a big moment!

The children were so excited to see the first droplets of water seeping out of the hose, and for good reason. It was a subject they initially read about in books in school, which was turned into a real life problem solving exercise on the allotment. From models they made themselves, the final irrigation system is a true reflection of the children’s designs. The great sense of satisfaction about what they have achieved is massively important for their confidence. They should all feel very proud of themselves.

Whole School Visit

Today was a triumph of many months of hard work from all those who have been involved in getting the allotment out of the ground: the whole school visited for the very fist time. Full credit to the teachers for not only managing to coordinate and occupy all 37 children but for being so bold as to take them out of the classroom and into the fresh air for some truly enriched learning. Change is afoot and there is hope among many that it won’t be too long before this sort of thing becomes a mandatory part of the curriculum.

After a busy morning of SATS, a visit to the allotment was just what was needed. The children walked up in the morning and, bar a quick trip back to school for lunch, spent the rest of the day submersed in various science, maths and DT activities. Topics included life cycles, water harvesting, recycling, habitats and plants. The children were broken down into small groups and using a carousel system, everybody had a go at everything.

Life Cycles

The pond adds a really important dimension to the school allotment. It teaches about different habitats, eco systems and life cycles.

Needless to say, pond dipping proved the most popular activity from today, but it’s so easy to understand why. Despite being a village school nestled in the gorgeous Cotswold countryside, not all the children have the chance to enjoy first hand encounters with creatures like the humble tadpole. What a priviledge that their school can give them this opportunity.

Recycling

Over the last few months, Print Waste Recycling in Cheltenham have kindly been collecting and storing 650 plastic bottles for the school’s plastic bottle greenhouse project. Print Waste dropped all the bottles off at school a few weeks ago and the children have started to remove the caps and labels ready for erection.

Today, the class 2 teacher wanted the children to work out how many bottles would be needed and how they would be fitted to the greenhouse frame.

The activity covered a whole range of topics, including maths, science and design technology.

Water Harvtsting

Another project that class 2 have been involved with is creating a rainwater harvesting system. They have been studying the subject in geography and have looked at irrigation systems in other countries, like Africa. The class 2 teacher asked them to come up with their own designs. The best one would be built on the allotment, providing water to the six raised beds. Today, the children were tasked with the challenge of how to build the system, resulting, again, in much maths and design technology.

Habitats

Back in January the school was awarded a £500 grant from Learning Through Landscapes. Only 100 schools are selected from over thousands of applications, so everyone felt very proud. As part of the grant, the children were able to select a variety of items, one of those was an insect observatory, and today, the children helped to set it up and site it.

Some of the class 2 children got stuck in and worked really well together, helping the younger ones in class 1 to site the observatory. The children decided it should go in the wildflower meadow.

Plants

Another activity the children were tasked with was weeding, which they always love to do!! There is much digging and tooting around in the soil and the chance of finding a whopping worm generates much enthusiasm! Lovely to see.

It’s been six months since the school first acquired the allotment and how satisfying to see all the children up there, together, in the sunshine enjoying all the wonderful benefits that outdoor learning brings.

Gardening Club #11

There’s something about being caught out in a heavy rain shower that children just seem to relish. Whether it’s the sheer excitement of getting thoroughly drenched or the simple joy of jumping in muddy puddles, there’s a lot to be said for letting the little ones embrace nature.

The deluge certainly didn’t dampen spirits at today’s gardening club, in fact it had quite the opposite effect. Moral was high as the children worked together enthusiastically emptying chicken and vegetable waste into the compost.

The second tractor tyre also needed planting up and the children were so busy they didn’t notice the rain clouds looming.

They cut out the membrane, which they laid on the ground inside the tyres. The membrane will help to suppress weeds.

The children piled rocks on top of the membrane to help with drainage. Again, they got a lot of joy out of lugging the stones around.

The great thing about gardening is that most jobs require a great deal of team work. Every activity the children undertook this afternoon required helping one another, be it moving stones…

…or carrying bags of compost.

They worked together and made super progress.

Even when the rain started to come down, they persevered with great determination.

This photo really sums up the spirit of Oakridge children.

Once the planter was ready they started creating their lettuce ‘pizza wheel’, which they did by dividing the circles up into eighths.

Next, they carefully transplanted lettuce seedlings, which they had grown a few months ago.

Alternating the colours, they planted them between the stones. No watering was needed thanks to the downpour of rain!

It was lovely to see so much planting going on. Once the tractor tyre planter was finished the children sowed pumpkins. Fantastic for them to see the tiny seeds in relation to themselves.

There’s always time for a bit of pond investigation, the children love seeing how much the tadpoles have grown, and often try to catch the odd one or two!

Two sweet corn plants were also put into the ground. They had been donated by a parent.

Sunflowers also went in...

…as did lots of lovely sweet peas.

Finally, as the weather dried up, two of the children from KS2 tried out the theory of seed dispersal that they had been learning about in school this week.

Gardening Club #10

Today’s gardening club involved plenty of weeding and progress with the tractor tyre planters. The recent rain and warm weather has caused everything to sprout and so the children were tasked with clearing the raised beds, a job which they all found really fun!

While half the group enjoyed digging up the weeds and finding worms in the soil, the other half helped prepare the tractor tyres for planting. The children loaded the wheelbarrow with large stones and then helped each other to push it over to the tyres to unload.

The children showed great strength as they helped each other carry bags of compost and soil.

They poured the bags of soil into the planter and used their feet to help bed it all down. They had a great time buying each other!

Meanwhile a third group helped to make the new eco-board for the school foyer. The school is in the process of becoming a registered eco-school and there are seven steps it has to take in order to do this. One of the criteria is to put up an eco-board displaying all the things the eco-committee has been discussing.

Irrigation Project - Class 2

Class 2 have a new project for the Spring and Summer term: to design an irrigation system for the raised beds at the allotment.

It’s always great to see the children up at the allotment outside in the fresh air. There really is no better place to learn than from the world around them. Setting real life problems helps engage the children in the topic being taught. This method of applied, hands on learning increases their enthusiasm, holds their attention and promotes growth and togetherness within the group through the use of teamwork.

Just before the Easter holidays the children spent some time looking at how different countries use different irrigation systems. They then applied that knowledge to the problem of how to get water to the raised beds, a great way to turn a geography topic into a science problem for the children to solve.

Classroom work is brought to life with projects such as this. Not only does it get the children doing some real life problem solving, but it also encourages them to become a little more aware of the environment.

The class 2 teacher likes to involve all the children in topic work by encouraging the exchange of ideas in an open group where everyone respects what their fellow peers and friends are saying.

The children brought their findings from the allotment back into the classroom and turned measurements and recordings into models of their proposed irrigation systems.

Once the winning design has been chosen, the children will help to build it. We can’t wait to see the results!

Pond Dipping

Today the children enjoyed putting the first plants in the school pond. It was a great moment, signifying the first small steps in establishing the new wildlife area.

One of the parents at the school is an ecologist, so he lead today’s session. Armed with wellies and a net, he talked to the children about the eco system of a pond, why algae is so important and the role water snails play.

It was fantastic to see how life had already begun to establish itself. The children were very excited to spot tadpoles, and even more excited at the opportunity of trying to catch a few too!

As well as planting up the pond, work also got underway with the new tractor tyre planters. The children just loved rolling them across the allotment and into position.

It took the help of a few parents to lift the giant tyres into place. There are three in total and the aim over the coming month is to lay a membrane at the bottom of the planters, piled with stones on top for drainage before finally adding a good mix of compost and top soil to plant into. We hope to create giant lettuce ‘pizza wheels’ which will be a good exercise in maths as the children use fractions to work out how to divide the circle into eighths.

Last week’s session involved yet more planting and weeding, with the focus being on the wildflower area.

The children helped to prepare the ground for planting wildflower mats. Over the course of the next few months more seed mats will be planted so that eventually the whole strip will be bursting with colour and pollen rich plants.

Dry Stone Walling

Who knew the age old tradition of dry stone walling still has a place in the hearts of children who are growing up in a world where screen time and online social media are the norm? At Oakridge we embrace such ideals and encourage our children to do the same.

A really big thank you to Adrian Montague, a dry stone wall specialist, who offered to come and give a workshop to the children in his own free time and at no cost to the school. Establishing such links within the local community and passing on knowledge from one generation to the next is invaluable, in terms of the way it brings people together, the skills it develops and the awareness it promotes.

After a brief introduction about what dry stone walling is, why it is still practised and a bit of a safety drill, the children were all invited to build their own dry stone wall. The wall was cited near the wildlife pond and, according to Adrian, it will provide a vital habitat to toads, who just love hiding in between the cracks.

There was much enthusiasm and concentration as Adrian helped the children lay the stones. Much of dry stone walling comes down to simply feeling how the stones sit. The children seemed to understand this in a way that only children intrinsically can, so mindful are they in their task. Without distraction they simply laid stone after stone after stone, working solidly together to build a wall fit for a toad!

As the wall got bigger, so the children had to think more carefully about their choices. Larger stones are generally laid around the perimeter, perpendicular to the rest of the wall thus ensuring it all knits together.

Children from as young as Reception age were finding much satisfaction from the process. How delightful to hear comments like, “I want to start a walling club!” It’s why parents run these extra curricular activities. Skills such as dry stone walling may be viewed by some as a dying trade; as a craft from the past that has no place in the future, but what is a future without a nod to the heritage that went into shaping it? Lets get our children out of screens and into skills that encourage growth rather than waste; team work rather than isolation; resilience rather than resistance; openness rather than closure. Our children are the future , lets teach them not to waste it.

Gardening Club #6 #7

Last week’s gardening club session was a busy one where the children sowed lots of vegetables. This week’s session followed a similar theme.

The lettuces that had been sown a few weeks earlier were ready to be thinned out…

…the first tomatoes of the season were sown too. Until the plastic bottle greenhouse has been built these delicate seedlings will take shelter in the warmth of one of the children’s homes.

Peas were planted both in pots and straight into the ground. It was thought that a nice comparison might be made to see which does better.

Sunflowers were also sown, everyone is hoping for some giants this Summer!

To try and keep our plastic use down, good old fashioned paper pots were still in production! Thank you to a team of parents who were on hand to help remind the children how to do it.

So that takes us onto this week’s gardening club, where even more veggies were sown. Beetroot went into the ground…

…a variety of different flowers were planted too.

Carrots and courgettes were also sown. Overall, the raised beds are slowly beginning to fill up and we can’t wait to see more go into the ground soon!

Potato & Bean Planting - Class 1

Last week class 1 enjoyed planting the first vegetables on the allotment, and what a wonderful sight it was!

Mrs Hayes, the class 1 teacher, is a real legend. She’s an incredible supporter of outdoor learning and is always so enthusiastic. It really rubs off on the children. Here she is helping the children to plant their seed potatoes.

Once the potatoes were in the ground, it was time to plant the beans. Mrs Hayes showed the children how to tie the supporting canes together before they all had a go themselves.

The children applied themselves to the task and did a really good job, not only with their own canes but helping their friends too.

Planting the beans was great fun. It was a joy to see the children enthusiastic about what they were doing and getting their hands dirty. The hope is that, over time, the allotment will become an integral part of the children’s curriculum, providing a valuable learning resource for a multitude of subjects.

Finally, there was just enough time to water the freshly planted area before a well earned play in the adjacent playing field.

World Book Day

Yesterday, the school celebrated World Book Day in style. Instead of asking pupils to dress up like many other schools across the county, we invited a real life author to our allotment! The children were indulged in the wonderful world of reading the Oakridge way.

Julie Fulton is a renowned creator and writer of children's picture books including Bears Don't Eat Egg Sandwiches and Greedy Mrs MacCready. It would be fair to say that her visit left a lasting impression on all of the children with many feeling incredibly inspired to become authors, writers and publishers.

The morning was split into two sessions - KS1 and KS2. KS1 enjoyed listening to Julie's stories and hearing all about what it means to be a writer. It was lovely to see them so engaged and inspired by what Julie was saying.

They then acted out the story of the Enormous Potato, narrated by a year 2. It was rather apt after planting their first potatoes the previous week. It brought a smile to everyone's faces.

The Enormous Potato reads much like the story of the Enormous Turnip, where the mouse pulled the cat and the cat pulled the dog and the dog pulled the son and the son pulled the wife and the wife pulled the farmer and so on! It was super to see reading brought to life in such a hands on way.

Class 1’s session finished with a craft activity that was based on Julie’s story, “Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches.” They designed their own plates of disgusting food and food they liked.

KS2's topic was poems, in particular haikus, which consist of just three lines that use a simple 5-7-5 syllable structure. Julie asked the children to have a go at writing one, using things they might find at an allotment as their inspiration.

The children have since taken everything they learned that morning back to the classroom. This week KS1 have been making egg sandwiches and writing story boards to construct stories from. KS2 have emailed their poems off to Julie to include on her website.

The school is extremely grateful to Julie for coming to visit. Staff and parents felt the activity was enormously beneficial. It gave learning context and how wonderful for the children to meet a real life author. The inspiration and motivation in the children has been clear to see this week, with parents coming into school saying how their little ones want to become writers and that they are busy making their own books at home.

The school hopes to invite Julie back again in the Summer for more story telling adventures on the allotment. Thank you World Book Day.

Gardening Club #5 Book Worms

Today the children enjoyed a World Book Week themed gardening club with local worm and soil expert, Fred Miller, who works for local community group, Down To Earth Stroud. It’s a great network of people who have been incredibly supportive of our school’s new allotment adventure.

Fred came on board to help install the children’s new wormery and provide guidance about how to use it as well as give insight and raise awareness about the importance of our wiggly friends.

The session began with a talk about worms, the roles they play and how to go about finding them. Very quickly, a dozen or so children were enthusiastically digging up the soil to find the biggest and most wriggliest of them all!

Who knew there were so many different varieties? The children found compost worms, brandling worms, green worms, red earth worms, worms with a saddle, worms with yellow rings and rosy tipped worms. There was much excitement. It always gives so much joy to see children outside, getting their hands dirty and really appreciating the natural world and everything it has to offer.

Attention soon turned towards the school’s new wormery and Fred gave an incredibly useful workshop about how to set it up and look after it.

The children helped gather organic matter and carefully separated the banana skins and apple cores from the citrus fruits, (worms don’t like the acidic flavour of oranges.)

The session ended on a real high with a spot of worm racing, a suggestion made by one of the parent volunteers. It went down extremely well. Those children who had been squeamish about handling the worms were soon picking them up and cuddling them as if they were cute fluffy bunnies! Great to see so much love for these fab little beasts.

Worm racing turned out to be captivating , edge of your seat entertainment!! The objective was to see which worm could get it’s whole body out of the circle first. Wonderful to hear the children screaming words of encouragement - the worms were true professionals and weren’t at all phased by the pressure!

As with most competitions, it was a close race and although there was no photo finish, there was clearly some discrepancy over the winner!

The session ended with a few worm facts, which the children read out helped by a worm puppet sock! A thoroughly entertaining, educational and enthralling gardening club. Heaps was learned and loads of worms were found. Knowledge has been passed on from one generation to the next. A big thank you to Fred for giving up his free time to come and talk to the children and share his enthusiasm.

David Drew MP

On Monday the children were very excited to welcome David Drew to the allotment. David is the shadow minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Our new project was of great interest to him!

After briefly meeting with class 2 for their own form of Question Time, David planted some seed potatoes with class 1, which had been chitting on the windowsill in their classroom for the last few weeks. It was fantastic to see the first vegetables going into the ground!

David thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the children, he was very impressed with their energy and enthusiasm.

It was lovely to start my week in the spring sunshine with these young environmentalists. I learnt a lot about their plans for their allotment and am inspired by their ‘seed saving’ initiative, and the whole allotment project.
— David Drew, MP

It was an absolutely beautiful morning to be on the allotment. After planting, Mrs Hayes asked the children to form a circle where they had a discussion about life cycles, the function of plants and the jobs they do. It was wonderfully idyllic.

After unearthing multiple worms, it seemed very appropriate to sing a little song about these magical mini beasts. The children joined in with the actions before skipping back down the village lane to school.

BBC Radio Gloucestershire

BBC Radio Gloucestershire visited the allotment last week to find out more about the project, the inspiration behind it and how it has brought the community together. The piece will be aired next Sunday morning on their farming and gardening program.

The recording was a real success. Half a dozen children walked up to the site with their brilliant TA, Mrs Chapman, and were met by Alan White, a local village resident who kindly donated £500 to the allotment fund. The photograph below was taken by one of the children.

The children were asked lots of different questions about how they have been involved in the project, what jobs they have enjoyed doing and what their favourite things are. They talked a lot about building the bird hides, their love of digging and the rat that was found at gardening club! As a by stander, it was extremely insightful. They all did the school proud.

To help give the interviews some context, the presenter wanted to record lots of different sounds, which included splashing in the pond…

…throwing stones in a wheelbarrow…

…and digging over soil.

Despite the rather foggy conditions, it was clear to see just how much the children get from the allotment. Projects such as this enhance their ‘Super Skills’; including participation, teamwork, perseverance, empathy, resilience, inclusion and creativity. The school places a big emphasis on these skill sets so it’s great to get the local radio coverage as it really helps champion everything the school is trying to achieve.

RSPB Big School Bird Watch

Last Wednesday and Thursday the whole school took part in the RSPB Big School Bird Watch. All the children from both classes enjoyed an hour at the allotment, either tucked in the bird hides or nestled under trees. They did a marvellous job collecting vital data for the RSPB to chart the rise and decline in bird populations across the UK.

The bird count supported the fat ball making activity that class 1 had done earlier in the week. The food helped to attract blue tits, robins and blackbirds.

The children enjoyed using the counting sheets to help with the identification of the different birds.

It was great to see the bird hides in use after all the hard work the children had put in to help build them.

Gardening Club #4

Week four of gardening club, and wow, how time flies! It has been amazing to watch all the progress made on the allotment in the space of just a month or two. Thanks to the hard work of parents, teachers and children, the school is beginning to feel the fruits of everyone’s labour.

There were record numbers at club this week - fifteen children in total, and we’re still in the depths of winter. Imagine the numbers come those balmy summer evenings. This is great news and means all the good work the club is doing and all the fun the children are having, is beginning to filter through the school. One of the biggest challenges has been trying to engage all the children, even those who never took an interest in gardening before. The overall goal is to make them aware that they’re only going to get one planet and that actually, it’s their responsibility to look after it. It’s about educating them about stuff that matters.

With so many children, the three parent volunteers broke them down into three smaller groups. The children could choose between planting raspberry canes, making paper pots and sowing seeds. Naturally, there was much cross over so all the children had a go at doing all the jobs.

Once the children settled into their tasks, work was quick. A lovely system soon developed as the paper potters handed their creations over to the seed sowers and the children rotated, taking it in turns. There were some gorgeously mucky fingers too!

There were soon lots of lovely looking trays full of newly sown broad beans. The children helped to label and categorise the different families.

Those children who had helped plant the raspberry canes had also done a smashing job digging holes and preparing the ground.

Excitement soon reached new heights when a dead rat was found in the digging pit. The children have such natural curiosity, it was inevitable they should find the whole thing utterly fascinating. Whilst being careful not to dampen their spirits, a parent volunteer highlighted the risk of disease that rats carry and asked the children not to touch it under any circumstance.

It was suggested that the find could provide a useful biology lesson for the children. Once buried and left to decompose, the skeleton could be unearthed, the bones cleaned and the children given the opportunity to examine the anatomy. Everyone liked this idea and so the children helped to dig the grave.

The rat had quite a send off as parents and pupils gathered round. Afterwards, the hole was covered with paving slabs to prevent other animals digging it up.

Gardening club is having a break for half term but will be back on Wednesday 27th February.

Gardening Club #3

Last week’s gardening club was another great success. Class 1 had come up to the allotment in the afternoon to help finish building the bird hides for the RSPB Big School Birdwatch and after school club finished off the work they started. It was lovely to see the children so committed to their purpose and helping each other, and their teacher, to get the job done.

It was a real group effort. The netting forms a key part of the bird hide because once the frame is covered it means the foliage from the old Christmas trees can be pushed through the holes. The children helped their teacher to cut the netting down to size, which they then tied onto the frame.

The children worked well together to cove the hide in the net.

All that hard work, it’s a good job there’s the odd water butt lying around to have a sit down on! It was kindly donated by a local resident from the village, and the school couldn’t be more grateful. Over the next couple of weeks, parent and children volunteers will help to hook it up to a gutter on the shed so that it can start to collect water.

It’s wonderful to see how happy the allotment makes the school children feel. Perhaps it is a combination of being outside in the fresh air or just a bit of physical labour, but it brings a real smile to all their faces.

The children also helped to dig over the ground where the wildflowers will go.

A good job done. The hides are up and just in time. They look great.