The School Allotment
Gardening, horticulture and animal care is widely recognised as having a positive impact towards good mental health. Looking after plants and animals allows us to be nurturers and can help to boost self-esteem when we see the positive impact our work has on an environment such as the allotment. The allotment is a calm area, where pupils can go to process the stress and anxiety they feel and also take part in physical activity in an outdoor environment. This exercise combined with the environment is known to support the production of 'happy hormones' and help to combat feelings of apprehension. The allotment is also a collective project, where pupils understand that their teamwork and cooperation is about working towards a common cause. The social nature of group gardening is beneficial because it centers on collective skills and aspirations, helping us to feel more connected as a school community through our group endeavour.
Over the course of the academic year, pupils, staff and parents have all worked together to create our allotment. At the start of the school year the raised beds were overgrown with weeds and so we held an event called 'The Big Dig' and invited parents into school to help us clear the beds. During the spring term we held another event and with the support of our horticulture teacher, Kerry, where we planted fruit and vegetable seedlings and created a wildflower meadow. We also now have two hens whose coop and run are located in the allotment area. Pupils have timetabled sessions in the allotment, where they can dig, water, weed and pick the fruit and veg as well as care for the hens.... and collect their eggs. It’s all very “egg-citing”!
The purpose of this outdoor learning environment is multifaceted. It is important that our pupils are given opportunities outside of the classroom, to generalise skills in communication, interaction and team work in a different environment, as well as practically applying cognitive skills such as counting, measuring, reading and writing. The allotment area is a multi-sensory environment and for many of our young people the exploration of a range of different sights, smells and textures is hugely important to their development.