Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Garden Classroom

It doesn't get much more seeds-and-the-city-ish than taking over a neglected rose garden on the Islington/Hackney borders and transforming it into a beautiful, vibrant space to teach kids about nature, wildlife and growing food. That's what The Garden Classroom is all about and thanks to a tip off from Joe Swift, who is their patron, I went to meet founder Marnie Rose today to find out more about the project.
It all happens in King Henry's Walk Garden, tucked away off the charmingly-named Balls Pond Road. There's a small flower garden, woodland walk, pond, raised vegetable beds and a whole range of fruit trees growing against the wall,  as well as some small allotment plots which are rented out to the local community. This place is humming with growing, learning and gardening.
It's an inspiring story, because the first aim when Marnie got together with a few other local residents in 2004 was  to raise money to turn a sad rose garden in to a loved community garden. It was a tucked away  abused space that left visitors feeling threatened. Out of this project they realised there was a real need for inner city kids to learn about nature and the Garden Classroom started in 2008 and they now work with most of the local primary schools running curriculum related learning sessions outside the classroom.
The learning outside the classroom movement seems to be getting stronger and stronger. When you get results like the primary schools with a typical inner city demographic (50% getting free school meals) earning prizes for their science achievments which are directly linked to their outdoor lessons - it's a very positive story.
I know there are many parallel stories for the urban green community spaces in London and I hope I'll have a similar story to tell about St. Mary's Burial Ground in a few years and about The People's Plot (about which more to come).


  1. That looks like a great space! Really well thought out with lots of room for the kids to mill around. Lovely to see a neglected space brought back to life again. Can't think though why people are surprised that kids do better for having a rounded experience in the fresh air with plenty to look at and think about, rather than being sat in a stuffy classroom with one view all day! ; ) Great post. Caro xx

  2. Hi Caro - Yep, outdoors = good for kids. I hear it's referred to as 'enrichment' by the educational strategists. But there's no money available for it. It's a no brainer to me that more money should be spent on educating kids about growing and nature - but perhaps the tide will turn...