Vegetables for Victory: Promoting School Gardens Project
By Lizzy Baddeley, on 22 January 2014
In the first of our posts about past winners, Mike Fell shares his experience taking part in Focus on the Positive, and how his project took off after the event.
Last year I asked the Focus on the Positive audience to help fund a project to promote school gardens.
In the course of some research I was involved in earlier in the year I’d experienced first-hand the really beneficial role that school gardens can play. I saw children heading home clutching freshly harvested vegetables and feeding hens, and I was given enthusiastic tours of ponds and mini woodlands – all the while surrounded by social housing blocks.
I thought it would be great to win some money to help encourage the development of more school gardens, but I knew that to run a successful project I’d have to partner with the experts – people who actually (literally) get their hands dirty on a day-to-day basis. So I got together with Sophia and Sara at Pooles Park Primary in north London and we talked about the possibilities.
We hit upon the idea of running a series of workshops where classes of children from other nearby schools could come and visit the Pooles Park garden. The children would get a chance to learn a bit about gardening, and the teachers about what it takes to fund and run a successful school garden. Every child would get to take home a plant pot with seeds they had planted, while each school could order a raised bed to help kick off their own project.
Naturally I was pretty nervous about taking part in the event. Not only was I pitching to a pub full of people against many other great ideas, but I was really keen to get the project funded. I think my enthusiasm for it came across, and I was lucky enough to come in second, winning £1000.
Once the money came through, Sophia and Sara jumped into action and arranged the series of workshops. Seven other schools attended (four primary, three secondary, with a combined pupil population of over 4000), with a total of just under 200 pupils and 40 parents and teachers. The money was mostly spent on raised beds (which almost all the attending schools have now received), and one of the schools has already won funding to further develop its own garden.
I’m really pleased with how the project turned out, and the feedback we collected was great. Although I was the one who pitched for the money, the success of the project has really been down to Sophia and Sara at Pooles Park. I hope it will be possible to run the project again in future years.
– Mike Fell, PhD researcher in the UCL Energy Institute