School garden a class act
In the book’s introduction, Madden writes movingly of the worrying disconnection between children and the natural world caused by modern technology. But, as he explained to me last week, it’s also a disconnection with far-reaching consequences for educators themselves. One telling example he gave was of a class of young trainee teachers that he asked to identify the leaves of 10 native trees. “The very best they could manage was two out of the 10 . . . ” Conversely, if schools and teachers are helped to nourish their pupils’ connection with the natural world from an early age, there’s every evidence that, as Madden so descriptively puts it, “they will have a sense of wonder and mystery about the world around them”. Round about now is the very best time to begin the process of planning, designing and creating these outdoor classrooms, a step-by-step process that should ideally be a collaborative between pupils and teachers, supported by parents. See below for advice on getting started.
How to .. . Paddy Madden’s book Go Wild at School is available for €15 plus €2 pp through the School Wildlife Garden Association (email paddy.madden_at_mie.ie.) Other valuable resources include the organisation Seed and the booklet “The Year Round Organic School Garden” (see gortbrackorganic farm.comas well as a series of downloadable worksheets available through the Bord Bia website ( bordbia.ie). Also check out Bord Bia’s DVD, Organic Gardening for Primary Schools.
What to. . . Go Wild At School contains a wealth of information on how garden projects can be used as powerful educational tools that, in the words of the Australian psychologist and school garden expert Kathleen Bagot, “elicit fascination, which is an effortless type of interest, rather than concentration, which can be hard work”. September, for example, is the time to plant a daffodil maze, while October is the ideal time to collect and sow seeds of native trees, explore log habitats, or study fungi. In association with the Blackrock Education Centre, Madden has also created a series of very accessible and instructive “How To” videos that follow school garden projects on a month-by-month basis. (See blackrockec.ieand follow the link to “Paddy’s School garden”).
Harvest Festival 2012 in Wolfe Tone Square, Dublin 1, from 11am-5pm. For details of the different activities/discussion, see dcg.ie.
Saturday, October 13th (11am-2pm):, Irish Garden Plant Society plant sale at TCD Botanic Gardens, Palmerstown Park, Dublin 6. Shrubs, herbaceous and alpines, indoor plants and bulbs. See irishgardenplantsociety.com