Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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Fairtrade flowers

Fairtrade Fortnight logo

Fairtrade Fortnight

A walk round my local ethical supermarket ‘Who Cares’ in Bradford on Avon has revealed that once again we are in Fairtrade Fortnight, a time to highlight the importance of buying ethical coffee, sugar, chocolate, bananas and all manner of other imported goods. In food terms, despite the slightly higher cost, people are more aware now of the importance of buying ethically when it comes to food, if they can afford to. There have been a number of high profile campaigns highlighting how big companies are committed to paying farmers of imported goods a fair share of the profits from their cultivation and investing in their communities too. Sadly the fairtrade flower market is not so well known. I’d be surprised if more than a small percentage of the millions of people buying flowers on Valentine’s Day recently asked exactly what conditions their blooms were grown in. This article from the Guardian is an interesting read and perfectly illustrates how far flower farming has to come to be on a par with coffee growing in terms of Fairtrade. Although at Our Flower Patch we are championing the cause of locally grown, seasonal flowers by helping schools set up their own mini flower farms via our enterprise programme we are aware that there are times when people will want to buy blooms out of season. In that case, buying ethically from fairtrade farmers is the best thing. You’ll find more information on Fairtrade Flowers here.

Fairtrade Flowers logo

Fairtrade Flowers


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Eastfield Academy – encouraging literacy in the school garden

We often hear of good work going on in schools and nurseries around the country to encourage teachers to use the outdoor classroom. We know that taking children outside can open up all sorts of possibilities to teach a range of  skills and we thought this week would be a good week to highlight some of the initiatives we like. We asked Claire Lowery of Eastfield Academy in Northampton to share some of her experiences with our readers. Claire is positively evangelical about using the school garden to teach all kinds of skills. Here are just some of her ideas.

At Eastfield Academy we are very lucky to have a fantastic school vegetable patch. These are some of the ways in which we utilise the space to develop our early literacy in the Early Years. With a high proportion of our children having English as an Additional Language, huge emphasis is placed on encouraging the children to talk and to develop their vocabulary. We passionately believe that this is achieved through giving our children rich and real experiences. Therefore we take the children on weekly walks which take many guises…

 

In this instance the children created their own ‘treasure maps’ with meaningful marks. They then ‘read’ them to find the treasure. Perfect for encouraging reading and writing for a purpose.

making meaningful marks in the early years treasure hunt ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Treasure maps

 

Another example is from when we focused on developing the use of spoken prepositions. We hid ‘aliens’ all over the garden and encouraged the children to describe where they were.

Using spacemen as a stimulus for literacy in the early years outside classroom

Spacemen came travelling

 

We also like to create props in our workshop which we can then take to the school garden to test and use. In this instance we created bug catchers! Opportunities for reading the environmental print and signs were encouraged.

Bug hunting in an early years outside classroom

We’re going on a bug hunt!

 

 

I am yet to meet a group of children who are not intrigued by minibeasts. A good old fashioned minibeast hunt creates opportunities for talking and recording what they have found. Encouraging the children to pose questions and use reference books or the internet back in the classroom to find out more.

 

Minibeasts as a focus for literacy in an early years outside classroom

A mini-beast adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking scissors out to the garden to trim the hedges is super cutting practice. We also set up some turf back in the nursery to continue with this skill development.

Early years children improving scissor skills in the outside classroom

Tiny topiary

early years hedge cutting scissor skills ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Snip snip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest time is a great time to develop those fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination needed for writing! Again positional language, describing words and counting all are developed here too.

Picking berries as a fine motor skill activity in the early years ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Harvest time.

flavouring yoghurt language skills early years ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Yummmmmmm

 

When we returned to Nursery we squished and squashed the blackcurrants to flavour the yogurt. Further opportunities to develop the children’s language- extending their vocabulary through developing describing words.

 

Following harvesting the pumpkins the children were challenged to predict what they thought would be inside the pumpkin. They made meaningful marks and drew, explaining to the teacher their thoughts and ideas about what they thought would be inside.

improving literacy in the outside classroom early years observational drawing pumpkin ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Pumpkin-tastic

Improving literacy in outside classroom inside pumpkin adjectives in early years ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Exploring inside a pumpkin

We then opened the pumpkin together and took it in turns to ‘feel’ the contents on the pumpkin using our describing words.

These are just a few of the examples of how we use the school vegetable patch and we can see that all of these opportunities to develop talk and early literacy will impact on their reading and writing as the children move through the school. Introducing the children to word groups such as adjectives, encouraging them to pose questions and organise their thoughts and ideas. Who would have thought it…grammar in the garden!


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Telling tales

Snowdrops in a primary school garden

A welcome sight in a winter garden.

This week is National Storytelling Week. We love a good story down on our patch. Cally often takes a book and a flask of coffee to her patch for a sneaky read between bursts of strenuous activity getting her plot ready for Spring. It’s good for your young growers to enjoy their patches as well as work in them. Let them spend time enjoying them at lunchtime. You’ll be surprised how attached they become to their plots and how much more care they take of them.

Why not hold a class storytelling event among the promise of fragrant blooms. You may have a few bulbs springing up or there may be a patch of snowdrops. Look hard enough and you’ll see signs of life but Winter storytelling sessions need thick coats, warm rugs, even old sleeping bags, hot chocolate, a bonfire and the kind of story that whisks you off to a winter wonderland. It’s the way storytelling used to be in the days before kindles, books and central heating. Ask for parent volunteers to come in and share their favourite stories or see if you can book a professional storyteller or author.

You can hold a summer event later in the year, make a den or a tent among the flowers with homemade lemonade or ice lollies. Recycle the lolly sticks as plant labels in the Autumn. However you celebrate National Storytelling Week in your flower patches, you might find these resources useful. Our members will be using their patches to encourage outdoor literacy activities in school this week. We have lots of lesson plans for activities which will get your young growers reading and writing – all the time getting up close and personal with nature.

 

Credit for the reading tent photograph to Will Heap and Kyle Books. This is taken from the fabulous book 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside, written by Dawn Isaac. You can read our review of it here.

Children reading  in a garden tent

Summer Story telling outside