Nurturing young people and plants at Growing Well
Resource: Case study
Growing Well, a non-profit community-owned business based at Low Sizergh dairy farm near Kendal, south Cumbria, offers educational visits throughout the year. Led by qualified teachers and volunteers, children aged 3-16 years sow seeds, pick vegetables, prepare tasty dishes from organic produce and take part in other fun-packed activities that teach them how the food they eat ends up on their plates. During the growing season, Growing Well produces over a tonne of organic fruit and vegetables a week. Throughout the year, it cultivates half a million plants.
Ryelands Primary, a Bronze Award and flagship school in Lancaster, has established strong links with Growing Well and has embedded the farm visits into its school curriculum. It is also working with cluster schools in the area to encourage them to take advantage of the farm’s educational expertise.
What they've achieved
Ryelands Primary School joined the Food for Life Partnership as a flagship in 2009. In its application, the school wrote, "We are strongly committed to improving the lives of the children in our care, and want to enhance our current provision by going the 'extra mile' for the children, their parents and the wider community".
The school is certainly going that ‘extra mile’ – it grows its own produce for their kitchen; it has extended its curriculum to include farm visits and food education, and it has set up cooking groups. The school keeps hens, works closely with its catering provider and strives to involve parents and the wider community.
Ryelands School has been sending children to the farm for a number of years, strengthening its links with Growing Well. The primary now wishes to make this a ‘rite of passage’ for their Year 4 pupils. Ryelands has many challenging pupils with a wide range of learning and behavioural issues, and the benefits of these farm visits have been huge for all the pupils. It has found the visits to be relevant to many areas of the curriculum and wider learning.
Before the children visit the farm, a staff member from Ryelands school takes a trip to Growing Well to familiarise themselves with the site and its facilities. Each pupil group is taken on a farm tour, aimed at showing them where their food comes from. Staff and children learn about dairy farming and growing produce. They visit the cow sheds, the milking parlour, the calves, growing sites and hens, and talk about relevance to their eating habits. Activities are tailored to individual group needs and range from egg collecting, watching cows being milked, sowing seeds, harvesting crop in the fields or polytunnels, tasting food and composting. Back at school, the children review what they have learned and share their experience with the whole school community through displays, assemblies and events.
What they say
Various staff from Ryelands School say: "The children love it here - there's always something different to see and learn. It really made a difference and they had great fun!"
"We will be sharing the pupils' experiences on the farm with the rest of the community through a huge wall display in the hall with lots of photos and drawings from the day. The kitchen is also going to have a theme follow up with school dinners."
"These visits have been one of the best opportunities the children have had to see there is another life outside the estate. A true nurturing activity."
"The visit taught the pupils about the quietness of the countryside, the benefits of good animal welfare and that salad leaves taste good!"
Pauline Sprott, education coordinator at Growing Well, tells us about a withdrawn boy from Year 6 who visited Growing Well for the second time. "It was wonderful to hear how elated the child’s teaching assistant was because he was so inspired. He had remembered the name of the aubergines and had sketched an aubergine plant. This may sound insignificant but the TA has kept this piece of work for his own personal file as it was a significant achievement for this particular child."
The difference it makes
Growing Well is committed to developing further links and supporting schools, teaching pupils how to grow their own food and about sustainable food choices. Visits can be followed up by a free food education workshop in the school (funded by The Big Lottery - Local Food), and workshops can be linked to the curriculum, to include topics such as healthy eathing, food choices, air miles, packaging, buying local versus food from abroad, etc. The next visit to Ryelands Primary School is planned and will focus on WWI food choices compared to children’s food choices of today.
Read more information about Growing Well here.