Our Gardens and 'Home in Bridport'
Edible School Gardens at Bridport St Mary’s
For ten years now Transition Town Bridport, in collaboration with the charities HOME in Bridport and Opera Circus, has been promoting and supporting ‘Edible Gardens’ for primary schools in Bridport. The project aims to improve the diet and the health of children by providing opportunities for them to learn how to grow food, and enjoy cooking and eating together.
The gardens offer activities using the National Curriculum STEAM approach, adding the Arts to Science, and to provide a place where children can get their hands in the soil: weeding, watering, planting seeds and caring for young plants. There is real evidence that this lifts mood and increases wellbeing. There is a Gardening Club each week, and each year this group spends time in the garden.
Building healthy soil and learning about its importance has been a fundamental part of the project. As part of a recent science experiment, cotton underwear was buried in the garden and dug up after nine weeks. An enthusiastic pupil explained that because the school soil is in such good health and has such a rich mix of microorganisms, only the label and the elastic remained. An event to celebrate the garden project was held, and the whole community was invited. Pizzas were baked in the cob oven using ingredients freshly picked from the garden, cordials were made from flowers, herbs and fruit, and sessions of storytelling, music and arts took place. A previous event had a visit from ‘Gordon the Rotter’ who inspired the school to start a compost project.
Over the last decade support for school meals, cooking sessions for parents and children, a cook book, barbecues, pizza evenings, harvest celebrations, and participation in Bridport’s famous Food Festival have all taken place. Through the Eco-club the school has gained Plastic Free Schools Status.
In the school holidays the gluts of produce from the garden are donated to the local community via the food bank and a stall outside the school. A small orchard has also been planted at St. Mary’s with an edible hedge where children and families can pick and harvest the fruit.
The gardens have also become a valued resource on enhancing the curriculum offer at the school with the edible garden team creating workshops that link to each year groups topic. For example year 6, whilst learning about World War 2, pupils came to the garden, talked about the Dig for Victory campaign and the need to forage and grow medicinal plants as pharmaceutical drugs were low. They dug potatoes and talked about their uses, picked rosehips and haws and talked about tinctures and syrups. They made soup in the garden with potatoes, leeks, onions and squash all from the garden. They also took part in a jam and preserves workshop with blackberries they foraged and blackcurrants grown in the garden. All things people would have done more of in the 1940s.
Tia Perella comments on the impact of the gardens;
It’s amazing to see how quickly some children get the ‘bug’; they all enjoy being outside and learning in a practical tangible way, but some want to know and learn more about growing and are fascinated about plants. The most rewarding thing is to see the children trying fruit and veg they would never have tried and enjoying it, also them slowly gaining more of an interest in food in general. Year 6 recently did a week’s residential on ‘wild side’. They were taken to a small farm, and the Year 6 teacher said that as we had worked with them since year 4 on several projects, the pupils were able to answer lots of the questions about veg growing and pollination which were put to them by the farmer.
Funding has been an ongoing challenge and Home in Bridport together with Transition Town Bridport constantly try and fundraise to pay for the gardening teachers, and for equipment and supplies for food workshops.
The Edible Garden Team meet regularly in school every Wednesday in the afternoon. If you would like to join this happy voluntary group please contact email@example.com
At St Mary’s part of the edible garden site is used after school hours by ASCape, a local charity that supports Autistic and socially anxious children and their families. ASCape's gardening club provides an opportunity for its members aged 4-12 to learn how to grow edible plants in an environmentally conscious way.
Our lead gardener Kat will show the children how to prepare the planting area, and discuss the lifecycle of plants and how seeds germinate. The children will be invited to share in the planning process, selecting plants and sowing seeds. There are plenty of fun activities whatever the weather!
If you would like to attend a session, or to know more about ASCape, please email firstname.lastname@example.org