BLOG: School closures and Covid couldn't stop the kids at Brockworth
By Adrienne Robertson, Outdoor Learning Teacher.
After a rocky few years, our wonderful Primary School – Severn View Primary Academy, was threatened with closure at the end of this school year.
As a teacher at the school, I was concerned about what to do to keep the children engaged and enthusiastic in what was truly a challenging time while the future of the school was decided. Always on the lookout for new initiatives, I came across information that School Food Matters’ Young Marketeers programme was coming to Gloucestershire and my heart lifted.
The Young Marketeers programme brings together children from local primary schools to experience the joy of growing and harvesting delicious fresh fruit and veg. They will then get the chance to develop their enterprise skills by selling their produce at their local market to raise funds for charity.
As the Outdoor Learning Teacher at Severn View Primary Academy and the sister school - Brockworth Primary Academy, I am passionate about getting children outside growing food and exploring healthy eating options. Over the last 7 years I have developed an extensive Outdoor Learning program in the school that includes a Bio Dome, Kitchen Gardens, composting, wormery - wonderful resources that help to capture children’s curiosity and sense of awe for nature.
We grew food for ourselves and our kitchen, enhancing our learning through a broad curriculum. Here was an opportunity to take our skills and knowledge one step further, opening up new experiences of not only how food grows, but finding out about the processes entailed in getting produce from the garden to our shopping bags.
We started with a team of key stage 1 and 2 children, deciding what we could grow and harvest before July when the summer holidays would start and the school would potentially close. Salads were the answer, and so we experimented and discovered that there are many types of leaves that make up a salad. We all chose our favourites and planted those along with flowers to attract pollinators. The Bio Dome helped hurry things along of course and so did our worm wee from the wormery (our secret ingredient!)
The weather played games with us – starting off warm, then cooling, dry then wet. But we were resilient, and we carried on watering, or not. But all the while, the children were excited to check each day for pesky snails, new growth, and fresh planting.
As children began to leave for other schools, I wondered how I could engage our sister school Brockworth in Gloucestershire. This is a special time for year 6, the end of their primary years and with this year being particularly challenging with Covid closures, I knew there was a higher level of anxiety and insecurity than usual. The effects of being in nature on our wellbeing and mental health, are well documented, so year 6 children joined our Young Marketeers team. They were bussed over twice a week to help out.
Eventually, all the children did leave Severn View, settling in to new schools before the end of the year so that they could start afresh in September with friendships already established. Brockworth children were now in charge.
The dates were set for the market; we were all excited and then disaster struck. A suspected case of Covid had been notified in year 6 so the whole year group had to self-isolate. With less than a week to go till market day! Not to be discouraged, year 5 were consulted and 4 slightly nervous but excited children joined me on market day in Stroud.
They were amazing, chatting to customers haggling over prices (£5.00 for a bunch of rocket?!) and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Asked what their favourite parts of the morning were, one child said –‘seeing the customers smiling’. We sold raspberries, strawberries, courgettes, 3 varieties of mint, coriander, oregano, basil, rosemary, potatoes and salad leaves.
We raised £116 from the ssale of our produce, all of which was given to local organisation, The Long Table which fights loneliness and poverty through food.
In all, 20 children helped get our crop to market. The benefits for all the children that took part were immense; a combined effort, undeterred by setbacks, always keeping an eye on the end goal and seeing it through to completion as a team effort was immeasurably valuable in a time of uncertainty, disappointments and confusion. Finding and celebrating hidden strengths, recognising and valuing a diverse range of skills were highlights for me. Seeing children inspired by the different roles they encountered – the stall holders’ banter, the packing and presentation and building confidence connecting with people in a market.
I’m sure these children will remember their last days at school as a highlight, as that is as it should be.
Find out more about how Adrienne is supporting outdoor learning in Gloucestershire schools here.
In other news ...
Marcus Rashford is asking you to write to your MP to urge them to endorse the recommendations of the National Food Strategy (NFS).