TOWER HAMLETS PRIMARY SCHOOL HIRES GARDENER IN RESIDENCE TO TEACH SUSTAINABILITY AT NEW ‘EDIBLE PLAYGROUND’
MANORFIELD PRIMARY WINS BRONZE HEALTHY SCHOOLS AWARD FROM MAYOR OF LONDON AS PUPILS SAY THAT OUTDOOR GARDENING LESSONS ARE ‘BRINGING LEARNING TO LIFE’
‘I feel encouraged to go into nature and plant trees and food’, ‘My mum buys the food from the garden and it’s delicious!’, ‘I feel inspired to grow my own food when I’m older’ and ‘It brings the learning to life!’ were just some of the responses from Year 5 pupils at Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets when asked about the ‘Edible Playground’ at their school, run by specially-appointed Gardener in Residence Jennie Rickell.
The school, located in one of the most deprived areas of the UK and committed to ‘a creative curriculum and innovative approach to learning’, has spent the past year further developing the Edible Playground alongside other modifications within the school grounds. These include new compost bays and the development of a native woodland zone in the Early Years Foundation Stage play area, all of which have contributed towards the school earning a Bronze Healthy Schools Award from the Mayor or London.
The concept of the Edible Playground has been designed to offer ‘a lively, engaging, multi-sensory way to teach children about growing and eating healthy food’, says UK charity Trees for Cities, who point out that ‘many children in inner city areas don’t know where there food comes from’. It was this point, amongst others, that drew Miss Rickell to fill the post of Manorfield’s Gardener in Residence. ‘I’d like the children to develop their understanding of where food comes from, now and throughout history, and how this impacts people and the environment’, Miss Rickell has said about her hopes for the residency.
Miss Rickell believes Manorfield’s innovative approach to education is particularly urgent: ‘With our current climate crisis, I feel it’s important for children to understand how food is produced and the impact that food and waste production have on the environment. I also feel it’s important for children to have contact with nature to remain grounded.’ Her appointment, alongside Manorfield’s Artist in Residence Kevin Mathieson, demonstrate the Primary School’s commitment to offering unique educational experiences that set it apart from many others in the area.
Each session students have at Manorfield’s Edible Playground is hands-on and practical, designed to focus on gardening skills that match the plant science curriculum. Miss Rickell says of her own experience as a student, ‘I never thought that I could grow anything. In fact, I killed lots of plants! It wasn't until meeting inspiring farmers and horticulturists my twenties that I discovered that you could study plants as a science and that gardening was not about being perfect, but having a go.’ She says she was drawn to Manorfield because of its ‘ethos to provide opportunities for each child to develop all sides of themselves – their emotional, social, creative and academic sides’, and describes how she ‘was impressed by the children's depth of questioning’.
The lessons seem to be going down excellently with the pupils, and even encouraging them to have a go at some teaching themselves. Ahsanur, a student in Year 5, said he has enjoyed ‘working with the younger children, educating and inspiring them’, whilst his classmate Oliver described how he’s been enjoying an ‘earthier’ approach: ‘I like getting dirty… and the worms’, he said in answer to what his favourite things had been so far.
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