A Day In The Garden

November 2, 2015 at 6:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” – Rudyard Kipling

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a day in the garden at one of our client schools. This school community garden is not just a small bed of lettuces and tomatoes, this garden is huge. Every fortnight a Year 3/4 class (Garden Ambassadors) spends the day mulching, pruning, planting, picking, weeding, composting, to name just a few of the tasks that they take on. It’s not just this impressive to do list though that was so inspiring on the day, it was also the why and how that had me walking away so energised.

“Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories.” – Miller Williams

We began the day in a circle, a formation that I also love using when working with groups. This is the ritual that greets the garden ambassadors each fortnight. A pair of students volunteered to lead this beginning sequence, checking in with those who had taken on tasks before school had started so that all would be ready, and then inviting us all to check in as a group. As I listened to each member of the group share their name, their favourite fruit, their favourite job and how they felt about being in the garden today, I was reminded of the power and process of deepening connection to self, others and the world around us. I was also reminded of the importance of empowerment, a theme that would be visible right throughout the day. I could already start to feel the amount of planning, sweat, commitment and passion that this school community has invested in this valuable learning environment.

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” – Liberty Hyde Bailey

Very early on in the day I got a clear idea as to the values driving each individuals and the groups thoughts, words and actions in this space. Personal responsibility and fair share were explicitly and implicitly fostered throughout the day. Naturally there were times during the day when students (and adults) needed to deal with disappointment, conflict, uncertainty and tiredness. Each time teachers (including other students) would check in, support if necessary and reaffirm these values and why they are important to the group. As we circled up again later in the day before a break we were greeted by a surprise visitor. A grandmother of a student had arrived to share some seeds from her own garden. This was an opportunity for the group to learn from her, and of course be offered by the teacher in charge the opportunity to sample some of the produce that had been grown and picked by the students earlier in the day.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek Proverb

I loved hearing about the incredible history of this evolving garden while I was there on the day. I equally loved hearing about the vision and plans for where they are going. Neither of these things though would be possible without individuals being prepared to get their hands dirty. And as each individual has gotten their hands dirty over the many years, they have contributed to something truely special, and will be connected to this space and their learnings from it right throughout their lives. We shared lunch together from what was picked and prepared in the outdoor kitchen that adjoins the garden. We shared pieces of watermelon and orange juice that was squeezed during the day by a team of students together at the end of the day. What a privilege, thank you to such an inspiring school community and to the group of students and teachers that I shared the day with!

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin

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