GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Grow your own legacy

Creating outdoor learning spaces for the greater good.

Edinburgh Academy Junior School has been using space on its grounds to plant trees, create outdoor learning spaces and encourage sustainability. Rob Tyrrell, a primary 3 teacher at the school, has been working with colleagues to open up the space and encourage pupils to get involved.

A gardening club was established at the school many years ago, but Rob wanted to make it more attractive to older pupils: “When I first started, the gardening club was really for primary 3 pupils. As I became more interested in gardening at home, I wanted to establish something more advanced for the older pupils,” explained Rob. “That inspired the ‘Grow Our Own Club’, or ‘GOO Club’, where children can really get stuck into planting fruit and veg.”

The school is taking an interdisciplinary approach to lesson planning: “We’ve been incorporating the obvious elements of maths and nutrition, when it comes to planting the trees and vegetables. But we also encourage the pupils to be creative and inquisitive. Some lessons might involve collecting sticks to create sculptures, so there’s a little bit of engineering thrown in there too.”

Rob isn’t taking on this project alone, with pupils maintaining the garden and other colleagues getting involved. Morag Robbie, who teaches early years, saw the opportunity to create a ‘Forest School’ in one area of the grounds. With palette chairs and a purpose-built hut, children can learn and play surrounded by leaves and branches.

Science teacher Rit Zbikowski helped introduce hens, by building a hutch from old lockers. “One thing we have tried to do is keep this cost effective. Part of what we are teaching is ‘closing the loop’ – encouraging the use of waste in the production cycle. For example, we plan on using food waste from the kitchen to create our own compost and a rain filtration system to keep the hens watered.”

Over 70 fruit trees have been planted on the school grounds already. Rob says that it will be a few years before anyone can reap the benefits, but it’s important to pay it forward for future generations. “One of my goals is to see children come to school without a snack, because fresh fruit is available right from the source.”

The school also got involved with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening, which has been encouraging schools to get involved in gardening to tackle issues around climate change, sustainability and help young people to get in touch with nature.

A pupil at the school (who has now moved into the senior school), William Rae, became RHS Young Gardener of the Year 2019. Rob said that William’s knowledge and enthusiasm saw him win the title.

Feeling inspired?

school-gradening-tips

For free RHS resources and advice, visit the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website.