We call our allotment at The Weald our ‘Nature Plot’, and it is one of the most unique features of our nursery and a vital aspect to our Nature Kids Project.
Many nurseries of course dip their toes into a bit of growing, but we are currently the only one in our area with a large offsite fully fledged allotment. We believe the process of actively taking part in growing our food is an essential skill for our future generations.
We have an ‘Allotment Coordinator’ – Alex, who looks after the plot with Louise (the owner of the nursery) and creates wonderful activities with the team that tie in with their development and the EYFS. He is passionate about gardening and teaching our lucky children about the wonders of nature. He drives the children there and back in our nursery minibus and is loved by both the team and children.
As part of their routines, children in our two eldest groups, the Baboons and Gorillas – spend a half day (winter) and a full day (Spring and Summer), every fortnight, learning all about not only growing, but mother nature in general. Our Gibbons do their own growing at nursery and often help ‘starting off’ seedlings to take up there. Soon they will be able to spend whole sessions there but it is important children are fully mobile due to the slightly more demanding terrain.
We have now planted garlic, onions and shallots, brocolli, peas, cauliflower, leeks, sprouts and potatoes and broad beans. Next we will be starting off kale, tomatoes, rocket, lettuce, cucumber and courgettes and more (updated beginning of March 2019).
We have a flower garden to look beautiful but also to attract butterflies and bees. We are building a pond this summer which will also serve as a bee bath. In the same area we are building bird houses and hedgehog shelters. Our little bit for biodiversity and conservation and teaching the children all about it.
We also have an outdoor classroom, bug hotel, herb and fruit gardens and more. It’s their time away from the regular nursery week, and plays a major part in establishing a love for nature and the environment. The children take pride from growing their own for the Nursery kitchen and cooking activities, and learn about planting, weeding, composting, native wildlife and biodiversity, and recycling. They also do ‘Forest School’ inspired activities. However, often they just play.
The children begin to understand the importance of reusing and recycling as they collect water from the rain butt and put waste into the compost bin.
The children are encouraged to be hands on with everything; collecting wild flowers to press and make collages and add to our nursery Reggio Emilia areas, pull weeds, water, plant and talk about the local wildlife. There is an allotment shop run by Pete and Mo, and a few friendly dogs (on leads) who stop by our plot for a mingle. The children are often invited to other plots too to pick fruit from orchards etc. There is a constant open invitation to our parents/carers to come and spend the day with us.
We are also using the allotment for focused biodiversity projects, particularly our dwindling bee population. Our Young Friends children learn about the importance of all our creatures, great and small. The children have such an amazing time when they go up and they learn not just to dig and make a mess but to enjoy and know about growing for life, and appreciating and contributing to the planet’s well-being.
Our Nature Plot is a truly special place and it is hard to do the benefits of such rich outdoor experiences without seeing it for yourself.