James Matthews told us about how their Breathing Place started:
"The whole garden started from signing up to Breathing Places and receiving inspirational ideas and resources."
"In spring 2008 we received our free pack of seeds and began sowing these in pots around the garden as well as in our grow house. By the summer our garden was in abundance of wild flowers and wildlife. The children developed a real sense of ownership over their garden and spent their days watering, re-potting, dead-heading and even redesigning the garden.
One year on, and now with a new class, we have a pond, wildlife wall, toad habitat (but as yet no toads!) beetle buckets, a water butt so that we can harness our own rainwater and two compost bins. And the best thing about it: it hardly cost us a penny!
- Children brought in old pots and containers,
- The seeds were free thanks to Breathing Places, and they all self-seed, so this year we've just reused the seeds from last years plants,
- The wildlife wall was created from old drainpipes, bricks, bamboo canes and piping sourced by the children.
- And finally, the pond and water butt were paid for by selling our plants off to parents at the end of the summer term! (Remember to ask them to collect the seeds heads and return them in September - along with the pots!)
Learning opportunities that have arisen from our Breathing Place seem endless. On a daily basis the children are seen developing their science skills, such as observing wildlife or taking care of plants so that they survive the season.
They communicate with each other about what they find and share resources such as nets, magnifying glasses and collection pots. They count how many bees that the borage is attracting and how many bloodworms they can find in the pond. They measure the height of their sunflower on a daily basis and record it onto a bar graph back in the class; and nearly all of this entirely on their own, without any adult support or encouragement.
Now the garden is not just a garden. It is an extension of our classroom.
The garden doesn't replace whole class teaching, but what it does do is provide our children with informal opportunities for them to develop their learning and even discover things that you have not yet taught them, giving them good foundations for what you teach in class.
The most important thing we provide the children with however is trust. We trust them to be outside without an adult. Trust them to be near the pond without a huge mesh over it. Trust them to water the plants and keep it tidy. As soon as the plants begin to droop the children will water them. The garden is theirs.
Trust them to wrap up warm when it's cold and take an umbrella when it's raining. Finally, trust them to discover their own learning experiences. Listen to them when they discover something exciting and then encourage them to share their discovery with the whole class. You'll be amazed at what you learn."