Sir James Smith’s Community School

Sir James Smith’s Community School is a small secondary school in Camelford. Early in 2009, Paul, a dedicated teaching assistant, established an after school gardening club to encourage pupils to make better use of the garden areas within the school grounds. This is an exposed site, being at the top of a hill in North Cornwall, so the club decided to revitalise the internal quads between the classroom blocks. When I say quads I don’t want you to think of large areas, with students sat on the grass in the sunshine – think more along the lines of neglected concrete areas that have been used for storage of things that no one knew what to do with, but that didn’t fit in the usual storage spaces.

The garden club was aimed at years 7 and 8, the first two years of secondary school, so the students are aged between 11 and 13 years old. Eight to ten students signed up for the club, but as attendance is voluntary, not everyone turned up every week. By March one of the areas was prepared for planting, and this is where we came in. Cornwall Gardens Trust sponsored, with the support of Fentongollen, a large box of vegetable plug plants. Plug plants are ideal as they have a far higher success rate than growing plants from seed. This success is vitally important when trying to encourage young people to start growing.

The students were provided with things like lettuce, spring onions, courgettes, peas, French beans, tomato’s etc, nothing too exotic just plants that could stand the conditions and that the students might be interested in eating.

The students planted and cared for the plants during the next term and a half. Paul told me ‘the plants you provided us with last season did really well and the students were happy to take the produce home, it was very successful, the beans, lettuce and courgettes were particularly good.’

This success has contributed to a growing interest in the external environment around the school and they have recently joined the Woodland Trust for assistance in developing the woodland area, which partially shields the site from the road. Paul confirms they would like to continue to grow vegetables next spring. It would be nice to think they could perhaps link it to the Food Technology syllabus so that growing and eating are fused together.

Over the autumn term (September to December) the garden club created raised beds, which in the following spring they intended to fill with sensory plants, so a selection of plants with different textures, colours, smells, and sounds will be required. I would very much like to think that this is something the Cornwall Gardens Trust could help them with.