Treat and two veg

24th November 2006 at 00:00
School gardens used as a resource for maths, science, geography, citizenship and history.

One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four ... This is a playground rhyme for most children, But for pupils at Primrose Hill primary in Birmingham, it is a maths lesson.

Teachers at the 230-pupil school believe that planting, growing, tending and counting the vegetables in the school garden can help pupils learn across the curriculum.

This week the school was the recipient of the Soil Association's best food-education award.

Susie Crook, the headteacher, insists that potatoes, beans, cabbages and carrots in the school garden are important classroom tools. "We want children to see themselves as learners," she said. "They can see that learning isn't just a classroom experience. It's something you do in the garden, in the shops, on the bus into town."

So planting sessions are combined with maths lessons, with pupils multiplying the number of seeds in a row by the number of rows to work out the total planted. Geography lessons are devoted to examining the types of soil used to grow different types of produce. Science lessons examine photosynthesis and seasonal growth. And the citizenship curriculum focuses on the importance of organic produce.

Year 4 pupil Molly Parker, approves of this approach. "When you're learning lessons, it's not like playing," the 8-year-old said. "But when you grow stuff and pick it out the ground, it feels like playing."

Blackawton primary in Devon was also a Soil Association winner. Its teachers also use the school garden and its produce to enliven the curriculum.

During lessons about the Romans, teachers identify the snails in the garden, telling pupils that, in Roman time, these were a culinary delicacy.

This term, Year 6 pupils will recreate a Roman feast. But 11-year-old Ellie Holland has not been tempted to sample any gastropods.

"It doesn't sound very nice," she said. "It's a bit disgusting and slightly weird.

"But having a feast is more fun than reading about it in a boring old book.

It seems like real life."

Pupils have also made Tudor biscuits and followed Mrs Beeton's Victorian recipes.

Dave Strudwick, the headteacher, said: "Everybody eats. We're making it relevant for the children. We want them to understand history in a more meaningful way. Otherwise, they're just learning facts for facts' sake."

There is the added benefit of creating food awareness among pupils, too. He said: "We want to marry up the quality of the curriculum with what's being delivered in the kitchens. There's no point learning about food and then eating turkey twizzlers."

Mrs Crook agrees. Many of her pupils live in high-rise blocks with little access to outdoor space, so she believes that having a school garden provides valuable lessons in nature, health and nutrition.

"They learn that they can plant seeds and those seeds will germinate and grow," she said.

"They appreciate the seasons and climate change. They think about how the world is changing.

"Then, when they eat vegetables off the salad cart, you can see the joy in their faces. They think, 'I've done this. I've created this.'

"It's a dreadful pun, but those children blossom."

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