Kindred Cheshunt: Our Gardening Journey
Combining her passions for childcare and the outdoors, Jo Monery, Deputy Manager at Kindred Cheshunt, chats to us about the journey which lead the nursery to receive the coveted RHS Level 5 award in School Gardening.
At Kindred Cheshunt, we were delighted to embark on the RHS School Gardening Award scheme because we had an existing garden which we wanted to develop into an eco-friendly space so that we could highlight the benefits of gardening to our nursery children and provide them with a continuing valuable learning resource.
The children were very interested in developing the garden and, using the forum of our children’s council meetings, we put some plans in place. With the support and guidance of the scheme, we were able to create and sustain a beautiful interactive environment. The children took great pride in their achievements and worked through each stage of the scheme with interest and excitement. And so, the journey began…
At stage one we identified what resources were needed to make our plan a reality. We needed to have the right tools and learn how to use gardening tools safely, we also needed to assess any hazards and teach the children to identify these for themselves as well. We wanted all children to have access to a working garden, especially those who may not have had this opportunity.
During phase two we discussed different types of plants and how our garden could yield a harvest of herbs, vegetables, and fruit. The children actively participated in these discussions and particularly mentioned having flowers for the bees which is essential for pollination. Following on from this we looked at the life cycles of plants and began planting seeds and getting seedlings indoors in readiness for the garden planters.
It was then time for phase three, and after receiving our composters from Herts County Council, the children learnt how to make compost with the support of our Nursery Chef, Naomi, who saved scraps from the kitchen to add to our bins. The children also collected leaves from the garden and our Nursery Handyman/Gardener, Mark, joined in by providing the grass cuttings. This enriched the children’s understanding of recycling and its benefits to the environment. By now the composter was well established. Our on-site water butt was also helpful during the summer months to keep our plants watered. The children wanted to build a bug hotel which created more interest and excitement in the garden. To further involve the community, the children grew potted plants which were sold during our Graduation Fun Day in July.
Onto phase four, and by this point, the garden was well established and the children were taking responsibility for the care of the plants and harvesting the vegetables, herbs and fruit which were used by our Nursery Chef in meals and for cooking activities with the children. In this, the children demonstrated their new skills in using the gardening tools safely and understanding the importance of protecting and watering their plants. We invited Herts County Council to give a learning talk to the children which included all about recycling to enhance and reinforce our learning. This was a fun and interactive session which was delivered in two groups.
Phase five, the final phase, saw the children visit a local care home to share some of the cress seeds they had grown and some of the produce from the garden. The children showcased pictures of their gardening activities over the months and were even happy to share gardening tips! The children noticed the care home had a pond and questioned why their nursery couldn’t have one. The residents at the home talked about the care and responsibility of having fish in a pond and explained the safety aspects to the children. (We're pleased to say we now have a fish tank which is a lot safer for the children to visit!)
As the months progress and the garden enters new cycles, this offers further learning and understanding for the children of the seasons and their effect on our garden and plants. Moving forward, we have planned a monthly activity for our parents and the children’s siblings to come and help with our gardening activities so that we can continue to develop and share our garden with our nursery children and their families.
Jo Monery is Deputy Manager at Kindred Cheshunt and has worked in Childcare for 21 years.