An allotment for growing minds – a Cornerstones case study

Radishes, runner beans, parsnips and potatoes & these are just some to the things pupils at one of our Welshschools have been growing in their own allotment.

The Swiss Valley School in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire has worked with the Cornerstones creative curriculum since 2012. They set up their own garden project in the same year and, since then, have been digging, planting and growing vegetables & and learning lots along the way.

Teacher and garden leader Neil Lane says “The allotment is a definitely a cross-curricular project. Children develop numeracy and literacy skills as well as developing gardening skills.

“Pupils have kept a garden journal that they made themselves and update with regular write-ups about any gardening work that they do.

“They've been involved in seed sales, seedling sales and produce sales where they take money and give change.

“They are also learning about fruit and vegetables, of course, and developing excellent knowledge of the natural world and outdoor skills.

“The project has really engaged children from year one to year six and motivates them to get involved in all sorts of educational activities.”

Swiss Valley have found Cornerstones' Allotment project (Years 5 and 6); Global Gourmet project (Years 3 and 4) and our foundations phase Growing Things project all excellent thematic resources to draw the best possible learning outcomes from their gardening venture.

Pupils are involved in the Garden Project as part of their daily lessons. They plant seeds, care for the plants, weed, water, look after and maintain the garden site.
Neil said: “It's that trick of getting the children to learn without them realising they are learning.

“The garden is hard work but they don't see it as that and, as well as caring for plants and seeing them grow, they are always exploring, asking questions, working together, counting and experimenting.”

The Swiss Valley children get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from their allotment classroom too & they've grown marrow, squash, courgettes, onions, tomatoes and sweetcorn this year.

And, they saw a poster they created all about their project win third prize at the Royal Welsh Show 2014, where Mr Lane took a party of pupils to see it on display.

The school's allotment also won a regional business award run by the Welsh Assembly called Enterprise Troopers in January 2014.

Swiss Valley's allotment was set up by Mr Lane, teachers, local businesses and community volunteers in 2012 after the school gained funding from the Big Lottery Fund to cover the cost of the fencing, shed, raised beds and construction of paths.

Since then we have used money raised from the seed, seedling and produce sales to raise money for the project, and so far these have made over £1,000 to plough back on to the project's up-keep.

Parents get involved through Garden Open Days where they help with some of the heavier work that needs doing and Mr Lane plans to expand community involvement through his ‘Groundforce Swiss Valley' initiative this year.

Future plans for the garden include construction of a new roundhouse shelter on the site for outdoor lessons and activities; and the children are also looking forward to digging a small pond to attract wildlife & especially slug-eating frogs.

Cornerstones curriculum director Melanie Moore: “The Swiss Valley Allotment project is a perfect example of an exciting educational initiative which is being used with the curriculum and not outside of it. It's lovely to see the children so engaged in their work and proud of what they have learned and achieved.”

The Swiss School Allotment Project is on Twitter @SVCPSchGarden.

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Iain Broome

Iain is a Creative Consultant at Cornerstones and currently produces The Curriculum, our new podcast. He's previously worked on a range of other Cornerstones products, including the Cornerstones Curriculum, Love to Investigate and Cornerstones Yoimoji.

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