We have recently completed a project that we thought we would share with you, as it was right up our street, so to speak. The Cambridge University Botanic Garden has a long standing commitment to groups seeking gardening inspiration, an introduction to the natural world or an escape into an oasis of calm and beauty.
One of the primary purposes of Its landscape and plant collections, which provide a rich feast for the eyes, is to encourage its visiting school students to learn to look, as the development of observation skills is a fundamental scientific tool. However, it is equally about simply inspiring children to enjoy being outside and learning in the widest sense of the word.
Within the Botanic Garden there is a flourishing Schools’ Garden which demonstrates vegetable and fruit growing alongside temporary plantings chosen to inspire teachers and schools who might be gathering ideas for their own growing spaces. The team provide hands-on gardening activities for school children visiting the Garden and CPD training sessions for teachers, and were in urgent need of a new classroom: the Learning Escape were delighted to be commissioned to create the learning space for them.
The Schools’ Garden is a productive, creative and safe environment where school children can enjoy getting mud under the fingernails with hands-on fruit and vegetable gardening; be introduced to the concepts of biodiversity and responsible citizenship through discovering the ecosystems at work, and enjoy learning in an outdoor environment. The new Garden Room will add a creative, child-oriented learning space for 36 pupils with essential facilities such as a small kitchen for cooking meals using the Schools’ Garden harvest. It will enable a year-round, all-weather schools’ programme and extend the ways in which plant diversity, horticulture and plant science can enrich and inform young lives.
The Garden Room will also become a centre for delivering continuing professional development courses for teachers in the region, helping them realise the potential in their school grounds for teaching across the Curriculum. For example, learning plant names and labelling crops can be used for developing language and literacy skills; bed layout, plant spacing and crop rotation planning are perfect for reinforcing maths and IT skills, and flower and herb growing can be used as the basis of school enterprise projects.
Use of the Garden Room will not be restricted to term time and many family and community activities are anticipated to find a home there as well.
Felicity Plent, Head of Education at Cambridge University Botanic Garden, said: "The Garden Room will transform our capacity for introducing schoolchildren to the natural world and drive forward our mission to help teachers integrate plants into teaching across the Curriculum. We appointed the Learning Escape because we wanted a space that wasn't over-engineered, was energy efficient and which was aesthetically pleasing. We are really happy that they have delivered that and we are looking forward to feeling the benefit of it later this year."