Sowing the seeds of enrichment
Green-fingered students at UTC Reading are finding out for themselves the calm and joy that digging through dirt, ripping out roots and planting a garden can bring.
In this, Mental Health Awareness Week (#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek), where the focus this year is on nature (#connectwithnature), biology teacher Carly Gale explains how some of the students have benefitted from the college’s gardening enrichment sessions.
“Gardening might not be the first choice of activity when we think of teenagers, but the benefits of getting outside in the fresh air have been well documented,” she says.
“Our traditional view of teenagers is of them eschewing the outside and spending all their time inside and on devices. In schools the trend is for most students to remain inside and certainly not run around on the playground as they did in primary schools. So gardening enrichment was proposed initially as a type of intervention, an enrichment for those that wanted to do something quieter, relaxed, creative but also expend energy and do some of that outside.”
The club was set up in September 2020, where initially just four students signed up. Over the weeks numbers gradually increased as students created a plan for the outside space, which got the green (fingered) light from Principal Jonathan Nicholls.
“We saw students increase in confidence as they worked together on the garden project,” says Carly. “Students who may not have spoken to each other normally, or chose to spend time together were working as a team.
“Lots of pent-up frustrations were taken out on the entrenched rosemary bushes and there was a collective sense of triumph when clearing a section and digging up roots.
“We even propagated plants with the support of our lab technician Liliana Teban and students were able to take home their plant babies and care for them.”
Unfortunately due to Covid the gardening enrichment sessions were postponed for a term, but this term the students were able to return, with an exciting project of planting 105 trees, sourced from the Woodland Trust. The idea is that these trees will increase the diversity of species around the UTC Reading site, having a beneficial ecological and environmental impact.
“We have had a five-fold increase in students signing up to gardening enrichment,” says Carly, “and the team have worked hard the past two weeks, planting trees for those that wish to nurture and clearing rosemary for those that wish to demolish!”
The benefits to the students are clear.
“It is fantastic to see them happy, outside and having fun working towards a common goal,” Carly says. “Several students have said how great it is to be outside and doing something physical and constructive. After a long week of lessons, Friday afternoon is a good change of pace and activity.
“Personally, I can only see the benefits it has had on our students' wellbeing and look forward to seeing the garden develop as more students get involved and reap the benefits.”
- If you would like to get involved with the sessions, speak to biology teacher Carly Gale.