Newhaven College Junior School Grade 4s have had a very productive year. They have literally transformed a patch of bare ground into a beautiful and bountiful vegetable garden to be enjoyed and marvelled at by the entire school community!
Read more about Newhaven's success in their Learning Story and have a look at this wonderful video they created to take you on their organic garden journey 2011. Newhaven College Junior School opened this year to 175 students - One grade at each level of P-6. The junior school had shared the main campus area at Newhaven for many years and the yard for the children to play included one house block size of land. The yard also housed the grade 4 veggie garden in the back corner – which, although very small, produced great crops of veggies each year.
The new campus is on 82 acres and an expanse of ex-farmland. It was a huge shock for the grade 4 children to find no veggie patch in place when they commenced their school year….and so began our journey! I had just completed my Diploma of Sustainability, and very keen to create a passion for sustainability within the school and in particular the grade.
The school garden program is an ongoing grade 4 project. The aim is to eventually tie in many other themed gardens that compliment this garden and each year the students will have a different garden to nurture and develop. E.g. a bush tucker garden.
The establishment of the garden is something we had no funding for and no budget – so the difficulty was to find some way to fund the project. The garden is central to the grade four studies in Integrated Studies – which links sustainability, ecosystems, endangered species, alternative energies, waste module and caring for our planet. Designing and creating this garden has enabled the children to experience a wide variety of activities across all KLAs of the curriculum. The passion and enthusiasm they have shared with one another and their co-operation over the project has been outstanding. Even their on-going rosters – they take very seriously and enjoy immensely. The key outcome of the funding has shown the children what amazing things can be done with a small amount of money. The appreciation for “The Bud” – the growth and promise of big things growing from the initial organic movement and the strength and logic of nature and natural systems in guiding the choices in life.
The natural elements within our 82 acres have been a big challenge – like the wind, the vermin, the lack of water to the area and in addition the sourcing of seeds/plants.
The decision was made to situate the garden away from the building because there is expected growth student in the coming years and the garden needed to be in an area that meant it would not require moving.
Solutions: The patch will have a wind break planted around it before the end of the year to assist and protect the plants within the fence.
The compost is now in a tumbler off the ground so that the rats, wallabies etc can not get to it.
The worm farm is all sealed and can not be penetrated by them either. (We initially made the ones in your lesson plans – broccoli boxes – but within a week they had been ripped apart by the wallabies.) We now get litres of worm tea each week and excellent castings.
I have requested for funding from the budget to bring over the mains water from the campus. The tank water will then service just the hothouse. Currently the tank is being used – but it is a logistical challenge for the children to unravel hoses, find the tap handle etc etc.
We joined Diggers Seeds and the fruit trees are around early next year, not at present. However, the seeds are all perfect for planting out now – so we have just placed a large order and will plant them in the coming weeks in the hothouse with the expectation of the seedlings being ready to plant out first thing in term 1, so the 2012 grade 4 will have a great head start. We purchased some Diggers Seedlings through a major store, which has helped us for this year.
The plan is to let the chooks dig over the patch at the end of the year and to start again in 2012 with the hothouse seedlings.
- A deeper understanding of where food comes from and the benefits of organic gardens.
- A variety of lessons undertaken from the teacher resources.
- Encouragement of healthier lifestyle choices – introduction of such programs throughout the school as "Nude Food” days and the “Golden Lunchbox Award”.
- Develop an appreciation and understanding of sustainability and “wants” versus “needs”.
- Improved social skills through co-operation during development stage and now during rosters.
- Improved empathy and resilience through on-going challenges faced and creating solutions.
- Increased friendship groups – through meeting and socialising in the patch in recess and lunch breaks.
- Increased awareness of the importance of responsibility through rosters.
- Increased awareness for “survival of the fittest”.
- Shared learning experiences – Grade 4 now share their garden, their knowledge (like the worm farm info) their chooks (we sell the eggs) with all other grades. At assembly, they usually give an update to the rest of the school to let them know what is happening or what’s new.
The future is very exciting. It is planned to have a pumpkin patch and we sell to local restaurants.
There are some very keen parents who wish to develop a healthy lunch program – using the garden produce.
I have been given a role within the “Community Programs” at the Year 9 Environmental Centre for 2012.
It is envisaged that the themed gardens will be developed through a partnership with Year 9 student help and the Junior School children. Although I will not have a grade next year – the enthusiasm and energy is certainly there with the children and I am certain the teacher will share the same ethos as us this year and develop and extend the organic garden concept.
The garden programs will be integrated in to the curriculum and will not “compete” for class time – but “compliment” it. The children will be able to enjoy the benefits of having their garden areas during recess and lunch also.
Thanks once again to BFA Organic School Gardens Program and of course Vitasoy.