We began working at St. Mark’s C of E Primary School in Kennington in October 2017. The school’s food and wildlife gardens had fallen into disrepair and had not been used for a number of years. We were tasked with reviving both gardens, to make them suitable for use by children, as well as hosting regular curriculum-based activities with class groups in both gardens. We have been working at the school ever since, and are now in our third year leading activities there.
We decided to begin the restoration of the gardens by hosting a community work day at the school on a Saturday at the beginning of the autumn term. Children and their parents, as well as school staff, and members of the local community including staff from the local underground station and church, all got stuck in and helped us to get the gardens up to scratch for the first term of activities.
For our first year working with children at the school, we decided to turn the food growing space into a ‘Pizza Garden’. We would grow all of the ingredients needed to create delicious pizzas! This way, the children understood and could visualise exactly what they were working towards right from the first day. We made a list of all the toppings the children would like to grow – peppers, basil, courgette, onion, and of course tomatoes for the sauce. We would also have to make our own pizza bases, so we sourced heritage wheat grains from the Brockwell Bake Association, and the children in Year 4 even accompanied us on a trip to Brixton Windmill where they ground their own grain to make flour!
In the wildlife garden, we completely removed the old pond and installed a new one, with new pond and bog plants, and it was soon teeming with wildlife, including frogs and damselflies. Children planted bulbs and a new wildflower meadow, and we installed a wormery to make our own compost and organic fertiliser.
In the subsequent years, we have continued to fill the food garden with vegetables and fruit, and each year we hold a sale of our produce at the end of the summer term. Each season we also add new plants to the wildlife garden and observe the wildlife. We have even seen woodpeckers enjoying the bird feeders that we have made!
In 2018, the vegetable garden was again improved, and became an Edible Playground, thanks to works carried out by Trees for Cities. We also launched a pilot scheme of ‘Forest Garden’ workshops for local parents with children under the age of four. We open the gardens to these parents in the morning while students in the school are at lessons, so that the gardens can be enjoyed by the wider community.