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Balfour Infant School, Rochester

Joanne Sharpe

Case Studies

Joanne Sharpe, a teacher who runs the gardening club, told us about what her traditional urban school has achieved.

When she started teaching at Balfour Infant School, Joanne wanted to encourage the pupils to do something for nature, and found the BBC Breathing Places Schools activities an ideal way to start.

Success with the free Breathing Places flower seeds encouraged the school to go further. "Gardening and wildlife go together. We find that the pupils are really interested in nature. Giving the children something to take responsibility for, like growing a sunflower or making grass heads (from old socks with grass growing through) helps to keep them involved."

The school now grows vegetables and has an outdoor classroom with a small pond and minibeast trapdoors.

The children take their enthusiasm home and have grown flowers and vegetables through the summer, reporting back in their summer diaries. One young chap was so proud of his broad beans that he can't wait to grow more.

The gardening club tried their hand at lobbying and successfully got their ideas for the outdoor area agreed by the school council. They have also found Breathing Places partners and local businesses ready to help. Joanne's advice? "All you need do is ask."

Pond

Besides gardening, the children are encouraged to discover nature by pond dipping and then researching what they find. "The children are never worried about handling nature and we need to utilise this at an early age," says Joanne.

Technology that is increasingly available in classrooms creates interesting opportunities. A camera connected to the electronic whiteboard can show woodlice seeking out their preferred habitat, from choices laid out on the classroom floor. The children can then all see what the creatures like, before finding them a suitable place in the nature area outside.

This year Joanne is using themes for her year one class each term that connect all lessons together. The plan for the summer term in 2010 is that the whole curriculum will be based around 'How does your garden grow?'



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