In our connected world everything is a simple click away, and children like to see instant results. However, they also have a natural interest in the living world, love being outside – and get surprisingly motivated by digging, weeding, planting and harvesting…
The Dumpton allotments were put in place over ten years ago. There are nine 10m x 5m raised beds, now housing chickens, a greenhouse and a polytunnel, along with a variety of planting areas, all surrounded by an 8 foot deer fence.
The area is open for use by all 350 children from the Nursery to Year 8 - either on the curriculum or in free time. The allotments provide a great opportunity for outdoor study in science through the school, but are also the focus of a number of growing projects each year.
For example, recycled plastic raised beds are used for a cross-school RHS Chelsea-style gardening competition, giving pupils free rein to be creative in a clearly defined space. There is also the Year 3 Potato Challenge. Each child is given one seed potato, and in groups of three the pupils weigh these, plant them in raised tyres, and tend to them through the Summer Term. Towards the end of term comes the harvest, the weighing of produce and the calculation of the % increase in mass!
Then there is the usual array of pupil-centred and pupil-run projects, growing a huge variety of herbs, beans, sweetcorn, pumpkins, courgettes and sunflowers, and managing the grapevines, fruit trees and berries. As many as 60 pupils descend on the area at lunchtime each day, working in groups to prepare the land, and bring on some impressive specimens.
Most of the produce is harvested by the pupils and taken home - although we have been known to supplement the kitchens if we have a glut of butternut squashes, or use the apples and blackberries to make crumble in the Food Technology Department.
Life on the Prep School allotment builds a great sense of teamwork - with a subliminal message that patience and hard-work will eventually bring rewards. At the same time, children are naturally competitive, and will rise to any challenge, whether it is growing the longest, the heaviest, the biggest or the tallest.
For some, including the Headmaster, the allotments are just a delightful haven in a very busy day …
Andrew Browning – Headmaster, Dumpton School