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Award Winning Gardening Opportunities Offered in Spades!

Did you know that we are keen gardeners here at St. Michael’s?  We are so fortunate here, that not only do we have a large natural woodland space, we have an area for growing vegetables, a greenhouse, gardening resources, wild flower garden and a herb garden.

Vitamin N = NATURE!

We believe in a big healthy dose of Vitamin N everyday and even throughout the winter, the children continue to help look after the plants, shrubs and plan for the following harvest.

Children benefit from opportunities to play and explore outside and time spent immersed in nature is incredibly valuable.  Studies have shown that being outside actually changes the chemicals in your brain and promotes a sense of well-being.

For the past year, Nursery Manager Sarah Sexon has made it her mission to create a thriving gardening community within the nursery and to cultivate curiosities, interests and to make connections with the land.

Sarah ensures that she consults the children about what they would like to grow.  There is a shared approach to planning and the children help to make eco-friendly pots, dig, sow seeds, water the plants & co-discover looking through books.  Come harvest time, there is huge excitement as the group helps to pick, dig, compost, sort, classify and even cook their bumper crops!

We actively encourage biodiversity and teach the children about respect for every invertebrate.  Did you know that we have a dedicated area where insects and invertebrates can thrive?  For every three vegetables, we plant another for the garden residents.  We understand that encourages biodiversity and therefore provides a healthy food source for other animals further up the food chain including hedgehogs, birds and bats.

We have log stacks and two bug hotels that house many insects and invertebrates including slugs, snails, woodlice, spiders and centipedes.

We even dedicate a space to actively grow nettles.  This is a space where children come to learn about respecting nature, identify certain plants and to understand that some berries and fungi are not to be consumed.

However, everything in the natural world has it’s place.  Children learn that nettles are a vital food and habitat plant for many butterfly species, and a number of native butterflies lay their eggs on nettle leaves, including red admiral, peacock, comma and small tortoiseshell.

We plant dandelion seeds because they are a vital food source for many pollinators that wake up first in Spring.

We learn about seeds and what they need to germinate.  We learn about seed dispersal.  We link our learning to books to such as Jack and the Beanstalk, The Enormous Turnip by Roald Dahl and sing the Dingle Dangle Scarecrow.

We cross all areas of learning within the Early Years Curriculum.  We are learning and Understanding more about the world, spending time outside in all seasons, all weathers, learning about how the time of year affects planting and the harvest.  We know where our food comes from and we use our senses to taste, feel, smell and see the colours of the different vegetables.  Of course, all this gardening requires a lot of physical activity and children are learning how to handle tools, using their core to dig, push wheel barrows and turn over the soil.  They are using their vestibular sense to build their core strength and keep them balanced.  This ‘heavy work’ is excellent for developing the Nervous System as it’s starts within the core, extending to other areas of the body throughout a child’s development.  The Proprioceptive input the children receive is hugely valuable.  They are negotiating tools, refining their skills and coordination in their fingers to plant seeds, understanding how much pressure to apply without crushing the seeds.  These all help to develop, promote and refine skills and are vital when it comes to pre-writing skills.

We see lots of wonderful interactions with the children, cooperation, turn taking, discussions, vocabulary, maths, and science.  There is a huge benefit to a child’s mathematical development as they are offered opportunities to measure, fill, empty, explore volume, size, shape, colour, classify and count.

Sarah has been working with the children to attain the RHS Gardening Awards.  The criteria requires the group to develop new gardening skills, understand how gardening supports well being, care for plants, harvest and use planet friendly approaches to the gardening.

We are absolutely delighted to announce that Sarah and her team of gardeners have been awarded RHS Gardening Awards Level 2 and Level 3 this year!  We have won a gardening book and £50 voucher to be used in the garden centre.

We are so proud of all their achievements and the learning that has taken place.  We are well on our way to receiving the Level 4 award which focuses on enterprise and helping the community.  Watch this space!


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