The General Teaching Council for Scotland

12 Feb 2019

Green Plan It Challenge

Jayne Hamilton, biology and science teacher at Bannockburn High School

A garden design competition offered an opportunity for Bannockburn High School to transform an area of its school campus

Bannockburn High School in Stirling entered the RHS Green Plan It Challenge for the first time this session with the aim of designing a community garden which would be established on the school campus. I had been looking at opportunities to incorporate Outdoor Learning and Learning for Sustainability into our BGE Curriculum and this project provided an opening to do this. I had also been successful in applying for and being granted the full “Food for Thought” Bursary in partnership with our Home Economics department, as well as a smaller “Grounds for Learning” grant. This project allowed us to capture pupil voice when moving forward with developing a community garden on the school campus.

Jayne Hamilton is a biology and science teacher at Bannockburn High School in Stirling. A team from Jayne’s class were the joint Scottish winners of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Green Plan It Challenge, a garden design competition for secondary schools that aims to inspire young people to learn more about plants and gain new skills.

This was the first time I had attempted anything like this within the faculty, and it was very much a steep learning curve both for me and the pupils! Planning was the biggest factor that helped me navigate the project with success. In addition to the resources provided by the RHS, I produced a booklet for our S3 Science pupils to complete as we worked through the different aspects of the project and this allowed them to track their progress as well as have all their research in one place which made collating all the information for the final report so much easier. Quite a few of the young people involved in this project have additional support needs, attendance and behaviour issues and would struggle within a traditional classroom setting so getting out of class was very much a priority. I planned weekly trips to our local community garden so the pupils could personally experience an outdoor learning environment and we made use of our smaller kitchen garden at the school as well.

So, how did we get up and running? In June, the S3 Science class did a whole school survey to find out what people know about gardens and if they thought having a community garden at school was a good idea. The pupils designed the questions and went around classes and all staff to collect their data. We displayed our results in the science corridor so we could share with the school community what we were doing and planning. We visited lots of different gardens including the Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre, The Kelpies, Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and the Braehead Community Garden. We visited our mentor at Dobbies Garden Centre in Stirling, and he also visited us at school several times to give us advice on types of plants and to consult on the pupils’ designs and models. Access to IT facilities helped with research and I took a lot of photographs and encouraged the pupils to do the same.

One of the most difficult parts of the project was giving the pupils total creative control over the project and not micro-managing them every step of the way. While it took some time for all pupils to fully engage, eventually I saw a team ethos develop with the pupils able to identify their strengths and, best of all, I saw self-confidence grow in the shy, quiet pupils.

Pupils at Bannockburn High School

The pupil's final presentation of their design for a garden to grow fruit and vegetables for the school and local community surpassed my expectations as did winning, if I’m totally honest! Listening to young people who would not speak in class talk to the assessment panel about their experiences and why they were here was a privilege. The pupils articulated their enthusiasm and knowledge with eloquence and clarity. It was plain to see that this was very much their project and they had full ownership of all aspects. It is very clear that this project has benefitted the young people involved but it has also opened up conversations within our faculty on how we deliver a science curriculum that isn’t solely based in the classroom and that will engage even the most reticent young people in their learning. The biggest challenge now is how we move forward and build on our success with Green Plan It.

Find out more

Schools can apply in spring to take part in the RHS Green Plan It Challenge 2019 which will run over the autumn term. Find out more at: