Barby Primary School’s Gardening Club: ‘A revelation for children’
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The Gardening Club is encouraging children to get their hands dirty and develop valuable new life skills.
With more than 36 members, the teachers and adults are guiding the Barby Primary School’s pupils in their gardening journey.
The children get to taste the products on their allotments, and after harvesting, they each take some of the fruits and vegetables home with them.
Barby Primary School’s Gardening Club was established more than a year ago by Andrea MacMahon, aged 52, one of the parents, and Suman Bedi, aged 37, Barby Primary School’s headteacher.
“It makes a significant difference to the children, their well-being, and communication skills,” said Suman.
The Gardening Club now has three plots of land under its care, two more than originally agreed upon. Other allotments owners and workers in the area expressed their appreciation at seeing the children gardening.
“It has been quite a revelation for some of the children,” said Andrea.
Andrea approached the Barby Townlands and Educational Charity, which manages the allotments, and asked if the Gardening Club could use some of the vacant plots.
“During the pandemic, I got very anxious about getting fresh fruits and vegetables so I got interested in gardening. I always had good memories of going to the allotment with my dad when I was a kid,” said Andrea.
The charity agreed and, in addition to waiving the annual rental, donated some equipment funding. The tenancy agreement became effective on April 1, 2022. Suman sent an official communication to the parents in October 2022, informing them of the project.
“The school and the village are more integrated. It’s not just about gardening. It’s about working as a team. It’s about resilience to some extent,” said Andrea.
Martin House, 76, a grandfather involved in the project, said: “My granddaughter mentioned it to me because it’s been discussed at the school. All the children were given a little form to take home to ask their parents to agree to their involvement.”
The pupils of all ages, as well as their parents, guardians, and grandparents, have nurtured the plots and grown a variety of fruits and vegetables, with the children enjoying the harvest as it is collected.
“We’re trying to encourage them to be outdoors and learn new skills, but also learn where the food comes from and taste the difference between homegrown and supermarket-bought,” said Andrea.
The project started in the classrooms, with children learning about seedlings, planting, and growing. Initially, the seedlings were grown in the school’s greenhouse.
As the weather improved, the children took the seedlings down to the allotments.
The club’s allotments are within a 10-minute walk distance from the Barby Primary School.
Andrea planned out the planting and growing schedule. The children were divided into groups and teams, and once a week, usually on Mondays, a group of them would make their way to the allotments.
The adults guide and demonstrate how to carry out the gardening duties before supervising the children as they do the work.
“I think it’s brilliant. The life skills and preparation given to the children is a wonderful opportunity. They are learning how to communicate with each other. They’re learning about food, recycling, and resilience to work together as a team,” said Suman.
The children learned how to prepare, weed, and water the grounds and plant the seedlings.
“They are getting a lot of life skills but they are also learning about sustainability. Things are expensive,” said Suman.
The club planted a variety of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, sweetcorns, courgettes, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, pumpkins, onions, lettuces, beans, and peas.
They created a herb garden and planted herbs like mint and basil, as well as dedicated a small portion of their allotment to producing guinea pig grass for their school pets.
“They are particularly thrilled about the pumpkins because we’re growing pumpkins that should be ready for Halloween. The children have been quite interested to see them developing,” said Andrea.
So far, the children have been able to harvest the faster-growing plants, such as the lettuce. Last week, they gathered the potatoes and onions.
“They have been very good. We have some ground rules, such as not going in other people’s allotment plots, not touching anything that is not ours, and respecting the wildlife. They are very careful and make sure that they look after worms. They’re respectful of the environment,” said Andrea.
The Barby Townlands and Educational Charity, as well as the club members, have generously supported the Gardening Club. The adults donated plants, tools, gloves, and pot holders.
Andrea and other club members organised a fundraiser and raised more than £100 for the club by selling rhubarb and gooseberry crumbles, pies, and jam. Mrs Crabtree, one of the parents, made the jam.
The Gardening Club organised a celebration of the club's activity at the allotments on Friday, July 14. The afternoon picnic was held at the school and included meals made with produce grown by the students, such as baked potatoes and fried onions.
“It has been a very positive experience and one I have really enjoyed. I really enjoy seeing the adults and the children trying something new,” said Andrea.
Everyone involved, both children and volunteers, has thoroughly enjoyed the experience and expect that it will be a continuing part of the school’s wider curriculum.