Learning Basic Gardening Skills At Nottingham Nursery School
Nottingham Nursery School is a daycare, education and training centre in Radford in Nottingham.
Last year they built a large planting area which they call "The Allotment". It is a large plot which will eventually be divided into three or four beds with stepping stones or paths inbetween to grow food for the Nursery's own kitchen, which provides hot food cooked on site every day.
The staff have big plans to develop more outdoor experiences for the children - growing some fruit, running some forest schools activities, creating an outdoor covered space for all weathers and growing lots more flowers and edible plants.
However the Headteacher, Jill Robey, has also chosen to focus on something less obvious, but absolutely vital - allowing the children to simply "be" in a garden and to learn how soil and plants look, feel, smell and behave. As Radford is a very built up area, and many of the family properties in the area have no private gardens, a proportion of the children in the nursery do not have gardens in their own homes. Jill believes that those children therefore need time to play in the soil, and learn to use tools, before rushing into planting.
There is a lesson here for everyone - even children who have gardens of their own at home may not have had chance to practice digging, scraping, scratching the soil, making holes, loosening compacted soil. And really basic things like putting on wellies, adjusting your trousers to tuck inside them, or putting on gloves are fundamental skills which are often rushed to get to the planting schemes but which are critical to practice.
Even when you have established your flower or vegetable garden, there is still an important role for a "messing about space". If you are a parent who is developing their child's skills over time, a small space in a less visible area where children can be let loose to make mud pies and dig to Australia. If you work in a setting where you take in new children over time, leaving some space for the new children to learn is a great idea. If you grow a high proportion of vegetables, this is easier, as there are times of the year where you will have some bare soil waiting for plants to go in, so you can practice basic skills inbetween crops.
Here is a short video about the children at the Nursery School practicing some of those basic skills.
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