The Full Story
This is our Inspiration Page. It's a place where people who have felt uplifted by the Thought Press Project can share their stories.
Interview with Thought Press Project customer - Ed Bond
About 6 years ago I was asked to come and deliver some horticulture/outdoor education in a special school that I had previously worked at as a Science Teacher.
We were given an unused corner of the school outside space and the trust to get on with it!
Working with students from not only Redwood Park Academy but also the other schools in our Trust of 4 special academies and in age range from nursery to post-16 we have transformed our space.
Students have built their own raised bed, greenhouses and polytunnels.
They grow a vast range of veg, fruit and flowers.
Students raise and care for chickens.
And we have planted an orchard, new hedges rows and living classroom (a circle of 200 hornbeam trees) large enough to enclose 3 class groups.
but that is just practical stuff.
The value is in what this actually does for our students mental health, regulation, independence and general well being.
Working outdoors is calming, builds resilience, makes lasting connections with the environment and promotes physical activity.
Fine and gross motor skills are practiced in practical ways and for those who need repetitive and/or heavy work this is easy to support.
Gardening teaches seasonality, hope, failure and sucess!
Growing our own food promotes trying new things in a safe yet challenging way.
We learn to share and be generous with our produce.
Our 6th form use produce grown by other groups to cook for and deliver hot meals to a local homeless charity (around 800 portions in the last two years).
They have grown flowers for gifts, display, for their own prom and for my wedding! Linking with community florists who visit and lead flower arranging sessions.
Through our hens we learn about life and death. We learn to accept that foxes need to eat in the same way that we use the eggs.
Students who, for the most part are heavily cared for (or in some cases are young carers) can become carers in a low intensity way. Looking after their plants and the birds, learning about responsibility and understanding what it means (if we forget) safely.
We have had the space (even though we are an inner city site in very densely populated Portsmouth) to develop a small orchard (39 fruit trees around our site) all of which the students have planted. Most of them will not see a fruit from these trees. But it is a rare opportunity in education to offer students the chance to make an impact far ahead in time. Our learners have (as they often do) surprised us with the understanding that these trees; their fruit, shade and flowers, are for others to enjoy in time. The same going for hedges and the living classroom.
We have had some nice recognition over the last few years; one student won his age group in the RHS young gardener of the year awards, we were champion school gardens for "Cultivation Street" Scheme and more recently have been included in a book (Schools That Heal, Claire Latane, Island Press) of 10 global schools which are inspirational in their use of outdoor education to promote wellbeing and mental health .
I try and build art in when and where I can, particularly in the summer term when we have more time to enjoy what we have achieved and shall be using the prints from this years Thought Press project as inspiration for that.
That's us in a nutshell, I think the work you are all doing illustrates so perfectly what we try and achieve here. I thank you again for the inspiration and unknown support I've found in your project this year.