A long time ago I qualified as an English teacher, then worked as a baker in shops owned by The School of Total Education. I studied at Burnley Horticultural College in the 1990’s and worked in landscaping and garden design for many years and established Earthdesign in 2002. Six years ago the principal at my kid’s primary school said that she would love to have a vegetable garden, so another dad and I built one. Things progressed and there are now fruit trees, the vegie garden is five times bigger and two chooks live at the school. I have taken classes in botany, cooking, agriculture, gardening and indigenous plants and people.
I believe that children benefit enormously by coming into contact with nature, whether that be growing vegetables, pressing flowers, making ‘leaf-rubbings’, digging in the soil or looking at the wildlife around us. Much learning takes place on computers and the internet these days which is wonderful, but there is no substitute for real hands-on activities. When working outside children’s interest is aroused, and topics such as food security, agriculture, indigenous people, water, weather and climate, etc can be introduced. My philosophy at Earthdesign is similar to that of American environmental educator and author David Sobel – that the best way to teach kids about the environment and nature is not to go on about turning off lights, picking up and sorting rubbish, how climate change will ruin everything (all important, but not much fun), but to get outside and get involved. When working with vegetables or indigenous plants, the children always find worms, spiders, caterpillars, etc. Worms and spiders may seem to be disruptive and a distraction, but they open the door to discussions about benefits of worms, what is a spider, and what the creatures in the garden are doing. Being involved creates an interest and feeling for the local plants and animals, which helps to make a lot more sense of other environmental issues children might read about.
Past work as a teacher and a professional baker has helped greatly in developing a simple programme for growing different gardens and using them for education. Having established and run this programme successfully, I am now very enthusiastic about sharing my experience with other teachers, parents and interested parties to achieve a positive result with their gardens and learning/teaching. I have also written a book called ‘Learning in the School Garden’.