Liverpool school using nature to support cross-curriculum teaching

Trees for Cities and Blessed Sacrament Primary School write about how they’re using environmental social action to support cross-curriculum teaching.

“Get the children outside to learn in the garden. It will benefit them, the teachers, and the wider school community”

Liverpool’s Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School has been getting green-fingered over the past few months. Last year they partnered with environmental charity Trees for Cities to create a magnificent Edible Playground, transforming their grounds into a vibrant outdoor teaching garden that inspires hands-on learning and gets the children excited about growing and eating healthy food.

Having applied for funding through the Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, they secured a generous grant to make their gardening dreams a reality. The school has really taken ownership of the space and have come up with a number of imaginative ideas that help ensure the success of the programme and offer the best possible value to the school community.

One of the fun innovations they have made is installing a vending machine in the parents’ café that is stocked with food grown in the garden. Headteacher Chris Davey elaborated: “We keep it stocked with healthy home-grown snacks that are made from crops grown in the garden. And the children have been bagging the veg. up as well, to sell for 50p a bag to the parents. They really appreciate it – it’s been very well received!”.

The produce is also used in the school meals. Having forged links with Food for Thought – the company that provides their school meals – they regularly have their harvested crops used as ingredients for lunch.

While the garden was quieter over winter, they planted some daffodils which the children took home for Easter. And they have planted poppy seeds which the school will use as part of a Remembrance Day display at the entrance to the school in November.

They have also been making their own mini greenhouses where the children sow seeds in milk bottles, creating their own tiny microclimates.

The Edible Playground is not only a space to learn about gardening, but an outdoor teaching resource that is used to support the entire curriculum. The benefits of outdoor learning for pupils are already well established. For teachers, the space encourages a degree of creativity and flexibility with lessons that classroom work sometimes stifles. Lesson plans are provided by Trees for Cities and, in the words of Blessed Sacrament teacher Paula Ridge, they are “child friendly, well thought out and detailed enough to follow easily.”

With four form entries and more than 850 pupils, Blessed Sacrament is a big school. Children still get plenty of lesson time in the garden though, as regular slots have been timetabled for all of them. Chris Davey told us: “Every week, each of the year groups has a class in it. It’s used by Reception right up to Year 6”.

As part of the celebration for the delivery of Trees for Cities’ 100th Edible Playground, we have been contacting teachers who led on historic projects and asked them about how well their Edible Playground has sustained over time. The replies made it clear that to ensure success with the space, timetabling regular slots for each class is paramount. So get the children outside to learn in the garden. It will benefit them, the teachers, and the wider school community.

For more information about how best to incorporate the curriculum into food growing at school, check out Trees for Cities’ educational resources. And to inquire about having an Edible Playground at your school, get in touch with the team.

Photo credit: Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School, Liverpool