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Flower power

As St David's Day and spring approach, one of Wales's national emblems can be a great source of lesson ideas and sensory experiences. Kate Lloyd reports

A new daffodil called Cardiff was registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in the autumn to mark the 2005 centenary of Cardiff as a city, and its golden anniversary as the capital of Wales.

Jim Hoskin, a specialist bulb grower who developed the daffodil on his farm on the Fal Estuary in Cornwall, describes the Cardiff daffodil as "a beautiful, tall, scented, yellow, large-cupped narcissus".

More than 22,000 Cardiff bulbs have been planted in schools and selected areas of the city. All of Cardiff's 106 primary schools and seven special schools have been given 50 of the new daffodil bulbs to plant in preparation for St David's Day (March 1), when normal lessons will be temporarily suspended.

Apart from learning about the daffodil as one of Wales's national emblems, in the weeks leading up to St David's Day teachers have had the opportunity to use the flower as a focus for teaching other aspects of the curriculum: basic botany - how the flower pushes its way up through the hard earth; geography - the changes in climate that precipitate early flowering; maths - measuring bulbs; and projects on visual art, as well as the obligatory foray into the world of the Romantic poets, with Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud".

At Riverbank Special School, a section of the playground has been transformed into an outdoor classroom where children can learn about science and nature, as well as giving them a space where they can relax.

Assistant headteacher Jocelyn Pike says: "At Riverside the learning never stops. Even at playtime the children enjoy physical, imaginative and sensory aspects of the garden when they're outside among the plants."

The new daffodils have also had an unexpected effect on pupils: "Three members of staff accompany the children at playtimes and supervise them looking at the flowers and shrubs," says Jocelyn. "We have seen an improvement in pupils' behaviour and social interactions after they have spent time in the wildlife garden."

Initially, pupils had to be made aware of the toxicity of the bulbs and recognise the need to leave them in place in the dark before they would grow, as well as make sure they were planted with the pointy bit facing upwards.

"It's been a good lesson in patience throughout the winter," says Jocelyn.

"The children who have been involved in the planting can now enjoy watching the daffodils flower in the school wildlife garden."

The school aims to develop an awareness of the changing seasons and encourages children to look for any natural signs that herald the arrival of spring.

They will also be encouraged to contribute to "Springwatch", a joint project between the Woodland Trust and the BBC, to log the dates when they first notice any signs of spring.


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