More than1,000 schools and youth groups across the UK will be taking their vegetable harvest from bed to bowl for the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Big Soup Share, a week of events (2 to 8 October) to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.
The week will see over 75,000 green-fingered 3 to 18-year-olds harvesting their produce from the garden, devising delicious soup recipes and cooking up a feast to share with their classmates, friends, family and local community.
Since its launch in 2007, the RHS Campaign for School Gardening has called for all children to be given the chance to garden, to support their learning and wellbeing and inspire them in future careers. Ten years on, 69% of primary schools and 79% of secondary schools are now signed-up to receive free resources and support from the RHS.
A survey of these schools to mark the milestone, found that 96% reported gardening had enabled young people to connect with nature, and 83% and 82% of schools felt it had improved the mental and physical wellbeing of young people respectively. Other benefits cited were helping youngsters to develop a wide range of skills (91%) and actively green the environment (89%).
While some schools are starting to feel the pinch, with 61% of schools experiencing funding challenges, two in every five schools (40%) are using their garden as a source of income; selling plants to plough money back into the school.
This enterprising spirit also transcends to finding space to garden, with schools making use not only of small plots of land but hanging baskets and window boxes (22%) and indoor growing spaces (14%) too. With this in mind, the RHS is calling on every school to get growing this school year.
Andrea Van-Sittart, RHS Head of Community Outreach, said: “The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has gone from strength to strength in its first ten years. I’m delighted that over 34,000 schools and groups have joined the campaign, giving around six million children and young people the chance to garden.
“Not only is gardening a fantastic way of bringing the curriculum alive, it helps to get young people outdoors in the fresh air to improve their wellbeing. They’re encouraged to be active, spend time relaxing and enjoy all the health benefits of being immersed in nature. We’d love to see every school reap the many rewards of gardening.”
Ingrid Chen, gardening lead at Columbia Primary School, added: “Our children love the school’s edible garden and have got stuck into all sorts of tasks with gusto: from raising tiny seedlings to harvesting crops; sorting worms from compost, to cooking homegrown feasts to share with neighbours.
“We started with a patch of grass just over two years ago and have built and improved this garden with help from pupils, their families and more recently the wider local community. It’s a fantastic resource to enhance classroom based activities in all areas of learning, as well as a lovely opportunity for children to care for a green space and observe nature which many do not otherwise have. It’s now a community hub, and hopefully the launch pad for the next generation of gardeners.”