World religions make our garden a gift

10th January 2003 at 00:00
We've designed and planted a garden to symbolise world religions. Children plant the Star of David with sapphire lobelia in summer and grape hyacinths in spring.

Beside the star is a blue and green tiled area, a quartered Muslim garden representing the four rivers in Eden that water the earth, as described in the Koran.

Golden and orange flowers bloom in Hindu and Sikh areas while standard roses represent the gospels. Students designed and planted their own feast-of-life gardens, as in medieval monasteries, with flowers and herbs mingled. They regularly dig, weed, compost, plant, deadhead, pot and water. It is a team effort.

Children unused to gardening often stop when they find a worm. If it's been sliced in two, they wonder if each part has feeling at both ends or if it feels at all. Some children rub lemon balm, thyme, sage and rosemary in their fingers, and marvel at the musky fragrance of pinks. Parents, staff and pupils give plants and businesses have given tiles, concrete and roses.

With recycling in mind, we've transformed a cable drum into a round table and a fallen tree into benches near a Buddha, beneath bamboo.

In the Marian bed, flowers symbolise the Virgin Mary: lilies for purity, maiden pinks, marigolds for Mary's gold. Appropriately, we have snails, too - believed in medieval times to reproduce asexually and to symbolise the immaculate conception.

As one pupil, Kieran, says, "It's good to create a place where you can go to find peace and do some thinking."

Liz Byrne is head of religion and ethics at The Nobel School, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

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