How Does Your Garden Grow?

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

The project’s main aim was to develop knowledge and understanding of gardening through play and hands-on experiences. The project also recognised the importance of parental, children and wider community involvement.

Introduction

The project focused on creating and developing a gardening space for children to learn, explore and investigate. As Froebelian approach states though gardening, exploration and outdoor play children develop an understanding of natural world and how to take care of it. The project required an ongoing consultation with management, staff, children and parents to achieve our aim of creating a green space to learn for our children and their families. The suggestions, opinions and views of everyone involved were taken into consideration thought out the project, ensuring all participants were satisfied with it.

Context

As a setting we are not fortunate to be surrounded by natural environment. We are located in the middle of a busy town, where concrete strongly dominates. The setting is also located on an old school playground, which means all the ground is covered in tarmac or rubber. However, the circumstances are challenging we have been looking to develop a green, gardening space for children and families for some time. The setting has already in place sustainable ways to teach children how to support life, local community and the environment. We are in partnership with local suppliers to be part of Fair Share Programme. The Fair Share programme inspired our children to grow our own vegetables that can be used within the nursery during snack time and throughout the day.

Davis and Brann (2017) study support the benefits of gardening in early years. The study highlights that planting experiences not only have impact on children’s level of engagement, but also provides encouragement to try own grown produce.

During this project we faced some challenges. As previously mentioned, one of them was lack of natural environment, which had to be created to be able to grow vegetables and plants. The other challenges we came across were resources/funding and the weather. By working with our parents and local community we have been fortunate to be donated a huge number of plants, acritical grass and seeds, which helped to completely transform our space. We were also the winners of competition created by local Dobbie’s supplying us with £500 voucher to spend there. As team of staff, we have learned and promoted upcycling, recycling and reusing resources we already had or were donated by others. The cold weather also played an important role during this project , however we found a solution to not to set us back.

To gather views, ideas and suggestions to carry out the project we were continually involved children, parents and other staff in planning our next steps. The seesaw was used as a form of communication between staff and parents as well as verbal form of communication. The children were able to discuss their views by using mind maps, drawings and verbal communication of how they would like the project to evolve. The ongoing professional conversations between staff helped to ensure everyone is involved and aware of the progress. To capture the progress of our project we decided to create a dedicated floorbook with pictures and information available to access for all.

Ethics

To deliver this project there were ethical issues that had to be considered beforehand. Firstly, ensuring that all children and parents involved have signed a permission for sharing and using gathered data, including their pictures. The other issue was to provide an equal opportunity for all, by accommodating their needs and preferences, for example by offering twilight sessions for working parents. As a multicultural setting religious beliefs and views had to be also considered.

"Through gardening and outdoor play children have real, direct experience of the natural world. they learn in nature not just about nature."

Findings

At the beginning of the project, consultation with staff highlighted that almost everyone did not feel confident in gardening. The consultation with parents and cares also reviled that most of them are not confident or have not done any gardening/planting with their children before. The consultation with children has shown that most of them have a good understanding of planting and gardening. However, most of them did not have a hands-on opportunity to experience it. Personally, I also did not feel confident in gardening, but reflecting on it I decided it would be a fantastic opportunity for all involved to learn and support each other sharing our knowledge and experience though out the project. After doing some research my confidence level increased allowing to support parents and children with needed guidance and reassurance. All staff and parents agreed that creating a gardening space for children will have an impact on their quality of experiences and overall learning.

The response we have received from parents willing to be involved in the project was overwhelming. Over 20 parents and carers have committed to engage in the project, also involving other members of their families such as siblings and grandparents. Some of the parents were keen to help using recycled materials to build planters and to create sitting/picking area where children can enjoy fresh air and have snack using their own grown produce. After having an opportunity to plant vegetables, fruit bushes, fruit trees, flowers, and other plants, one of the mum’s decided that she enjoyed the experience that much that she is going to do it in her own garden. The families who do not have gardens in their home have indicated that they would be willing to help anytime as it would be the only gardening opportunity they have with their children.

The questionnaire sent to our parents have shown that they would like to be involved in more projects like this one in the future. After observing the interactions between children and their families I have observed that overall confidence has increased. The parents were more confident in supporting children, but also other parents. The children’s learning is evident as they confident in their newly gained skills, sharing information with their peers, instructing them step by step what to do.

Conclusion

This project had a positive outcome for all involved. The children and their families were provided with space and freedom to try new things out, explore, experiment and investigate how the worlds work. The parental involvement and feedback from staff and all parties involved, encouraged us as setting to expand the project into our local community. We have reached out to local Community Garden, Friends of Barshaw, to inquire about an allotment. The allotment space has been granted and are in communication with children and their families to begin the planning stage.

Research implications

We at Williamsburgh ELCC want to take forward Friedrich Frobel’s vision of children engaging in nature, we want to do this through gardening so our children experience digging and planting, they will “tend their plants and harvest the produce.” Stated by (Tovey H p.3)

The implications for our setting and the team are planting seedlings with children that will be transported outside when ready. Discussions were happening to find out what the children wanted to grow and the process of growing was explained using a variety of seed catalogues and books.

Discussions were under taken by Justyna with the outdoor team and Justyna proposed tasks for staff and children to undertake. A seesaw post was sent out asking for help from parents. This was acted upon and parent/carer helpers were in weeding and preparing the unused part of our playground.

The new garden has been resourced with help from Dobies Garden Centre from their Community Fund, a parent donated plants and artificial grass from B&Q.

Another parent donated planters that he built and painted. Upcycling and reusing tumble dryer drums are a way of introducing ecology into our pedagogy.

Also, discussions had been happening in the Snack area, this began with lemons from “FareShare”, each week we are given food donations from Booker Cash and Carry, which are passed onto our parents/carers. The children were curious about the lemon seeds, so Sarah and the children read how to propagate and planted when the seedling was ready, which led on to bringing the outdoors in and through discussion with a group of children, they decided to grow herbs and vegetables from seeds to be transported to our new garden area and our plot in Barshaw Park, as part of their RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Community Garden.

At Williamsburgh we want our children to have time to develop their skills through their own interests, our team achieves this through professional dialogue, planning and provocations. For our younger children their interest has been in watering the plants to help them grow. Our children are building on their experiences of growing last year, where the focus was worms. We use our Floor-books as evidence of prior knowledge, reminding children of the important job that worms do to help the soil that will grow the plants and vegetables.

Practitioner enquiry

The value for me is that practitioners have the autonomy to take forward an idea that they are passionate about in a Championship role.

Staff have undertaken RNRA (Renfrewshire Nurturing Relationship Approach) training and at the end will share with staff. Professional Enquiry Training has been undertaken on Numeracy.

The gardening project has been good for involving parents and the local community.

During discussions and debates on superhero play for example staff have researched, coming back as a staff which is more informed.

Practitioner research broadens the mind and keeps all up to date with current/new ideas. Shared practice by visiting other ELCC with in own council and other local authorities.

Leadership learning

As the lead I have learned that staff with support can rise to the challenge, I think that having a deadline makes a difference, as I have seen projects fizzle out, due to lack of motivation brought on by being short staffed, but, with a deadline, there is more drive and negotiating with other staff for time or help, which in turn leads to a stronger team.

It was lovely to see Justyna grow from the first concept meeting, which was declined by management, we went back to the drawing board to rethink what our aim was going to be. We had time to plan and discuss different ideas. If I was to do it again, I would allocate protected time to come together on a weekly basis.

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Tracey Aitken
    Tracey Aitken
    24 Mar 2024 at 11:20 am

    Well done, your passion and drive to overcome many hurdles is obvious throughout your research. This is an inspirational read and successful approach to develop life skills in children and adults with a shared connection of wellbeing, sustainability and unity. This resonates with many Freobelian principles and beyond the life of your centre. I wish you every success with your allotment and thank you for sharing your inspirational research.


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  2. Linsey Hood
    Linsey Hood
    25 Mar 2024 at 5:05 pm

    What a great read. I really admired how solution focused you were despite having so many challenges with budgets, resources and space. I thought it was wonderful to keep the voice of the child and parents at the centre of the project and loved that the parents were active participants in developing the garden. Your project has really highlighted how, as with many settings, a low budget and concrete space can be transformed into an exciting learning space with a little bit of team work, thought and creativity. Very inspirational!


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