Initiative offers growth spurt
Helen O’Callaghan looks at a very healthy collaboration
INSTANT gratification isn’t generally considered great for kids but at Castlemartyr NS, teachers are set to get pupils planting salad leaves — rocket and mustard seed — because they grow quickly, giving children a sense of almost immediate satisfaction that in itself is a reward for their work.
The 279-pupil school is one of nine in Cork selected to get a Slow Food Educational Project delivered as a result of a partnership between Ballymaloe Cookery School and GIY.
The schools will be supported by GIY as they start or develop an existing school garden, with a team visiting the schools this spring to provide educational resources. A monthly resource pack tailor-made for each school includes tips on what to grow when, a growing calendar, lesson plans, and other food empathy messages.
Castlemartyr NS principal Jane Flannery says her school was recommended to grow blight-resistant potatoes. “They can be harvested by the children in September and October. We were advised to go for crops where the pupils can experience planting and harvesting. With the intention of harvesting in May and June, we decided on pears and salad leaves. Pumpkins and different varieties of gourd were also recommended because there’s very little maintenance during summer [when schools are off].”
Darina Allen of Ballymaloe says the experience of growing their own food is exciting and hands-on for children. “This is an invaluable life skill not currently on the curriculum, which will help to stimulate enthusiasm for delicious and nutritious home-grown food and the health benefits that go with it.”
Flannery says a project like this is grounding for pupils. “This should raise awareness of biodiversity and all creatures’ place in the food chain. And it’s good for children to see the logic of how things must be done in terms of growing food.”
Ballymaloe and GIY are delivering the Food Educational Project through the GROW Circle. This offers organisations, businesses, and companies the opportunity to sponsor a GIY initiative that benefits their employees, their community, local schools, or a social cause close to their heart. Opportunities range from supporting community markets in rural areas to social and therapeutic horticulture programmes in drug rehabilitation and direct provision centres, to delivering social eating programmes or installing gardens in schools.
DIG IN: Karen O’Donohoe, GIY; Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School, and Micheala Frobarth, pupil.