Gardening in “knife addled rape sheds”

‘Are you mad or just mildly insane?’  ‘You want to do what?’ ‘Well good luck with that one’ all typical responses when the topic of gardening with teenagers is raised.  After all aren’t teenagers hoodie wearing yobs that get drunk or stoned, and do nothing but swear and beat up old ladies?  What happens in the summer break between year 6 and year 7 that makes us think that these kids turn into the Spawn of Satan and won’t be interested anymore?  OK, I know, hormones but hey we’ve all got them, and we’ve all been there.   So last year, with support from the Tanner Trust, we decided to have a go at dispelling some of these myths and started a programme to encourage secondary schools to get their pupils out in their school grounds and growing stuff.

We have helped several gardening projects get off the ground including vegetable gardens, sensory gardens, wildlife and conservation gardens, all of which cross many curriculum areas.  For example Launceston College utilise the skills pupils learn in DT, with the older students helping the younger ones create cold frames and raised beds, vocational opportunities were created such as learning how to lay paving for paths and patios.  Wadebridge School has created insect habitats and encouraged their school to recycle its food waste through their composting efforts plus their Art and Design students have been decorating sheds and creating signage. Some use their gardens to target particular elements of their community for instance, Bodmin College used their garden to raise awareness of Dyslexia.  Sir James Smith’s Community School is creating an allotment style garden to encourage wider community involvement, whilst their Individual Needs pupils will make use of part of the plot during school time.

We make small grants, to cover the costs of things like top soil, tools, gardening gloves, seeds or plug plants, materials to make cold frames, raised beds or planters.  There is a simple application form, nothing that will take a teacher too long to complete they haven’t got the time.  Each application is reviewed on its merits and an award made where we feel it is appropriate.  In return we ask the schools to forward receipts for goods purchased plus a ‘file’ of evidence to prove their project is moving forward.  Typically this includes photos, videos, perhaps a blog, all things that the students themselves are usually more than happy to do, and that can be burnt to a disc so keeping costs to a minimum.

For many years Cornwall Gardens Trust has, (and still does), offered to assist primary schools with their gardens and grounds.  This works very well, children in years 1 to 6 start to become great little gardeners.  It’s a great place to start when encouraging future horticulturalists.  But it is only the start, they move to secondary school in year 7 then what, nothing, nada, zilch.  This is where we as an association can help, ignore the stereotypes and go meet some teenagers they’re great, they really are.

Education Coordinator
Cornwall Gardens Trust

“knife addled rape sheds” – from “The Thick of It” by Armando Iannucci