Lofthouse children recognised for transforming school field into garden with orchards and chickens

While most school fields are used for sports days, a kick-around and playground games, the field at Outwood Primary Academy Lofthouse Gate is home to eight chickens, an orchard, a fruit and vegetable garden and a compost heap.

Children at the Canal Lane school made the extravagant garden from scratch, beginning last Easter, as part of a learning outside the classroom initiative.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 03/07/15 - Press - Lofthouse School Awards - Outwood Primary Academy, Lofthouse, Wakefield, England - Jonathan Stone (Chairman of Governors), Jackie Savage (Principal), & Andrew Kent (Director of Outwood Academy trust) with some of the pupils in their outdoor garden.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 03/07/15 - Press - Lofthouse School Awards - Outwood Primary Academy, Lofthouse, Wakefield, England - Jonathan Stone (Chairman of Governors), Jackie Savage (Principal), & Andrew Kent (Director of Outwood Academy trust) with some of the pupils in their outdoor garden.

Pupils from year one to five work in the garden during the school day to develop horticulture skills and help tend to it during three after school gardening clubs.

The garden planters are made from recycled materials including tyres and drinks cans and the children recycle all food and chicken waste on the compost pile.

Young ‘Eggsperts’ clean and care for the Eglu chickens, and collect their eggs, which are washed and sold for small donations to help buy school supplies.

As well as the hen pen and produce garden, there is a potting shed, bird feeding station, wildlife garden with a pond full of newts and a weather station.

Children have enjoyed harvesting and eating the produce, learning how to cook it in special lessons. Pumpkin soup and First World War potato scones are among the tasty treats they have made.

From September, the school is hoping to start a ‘cook it’ session where the youngsters will pick produce including broad beans, tomatoes, onions, courgettes and sweet corn, for the catering staff to use in school meals.

It has been recognised for its enterprising work in developing the garden and getting children heavily involved in maintaining it.

The school’s learning garden, which was created as part of an Open Futures scheme, was the 2015 regional winner in the Total Green School Awards. The Academy received £500.

Janet Bennett, learning outside the classroom coordinator, said: “Our learning garden is all about teaching the children where food comes from and how to eat healthily as well as to enable them to get an understanding of the environment and conservation.

“Open Futures scheme is about getting the children outside the classroom, learning practical skills.

“The children have grown all the plants from seeds and done everything from scratch.

“It was amazing to be recognised for all the hard work that has gone in to the garden. We won because of how the garden had progressed since we first started it last year and because of how involved the children are in looking after it.” Open Futures focuses on developing practical skills and personal interests, and teaching a curriculum linking learning and life, designed to enrich children’s education and enhance their adulthood. It has four key themes ask it, film it grow it and cook it, the latter two which have been at the centre of the academy’s garden.

The school has also been encouraging students to go green at home. It ran a school in bloom competition for parents and pupils to make recycled flower gardens, with prizes for the best.

Mrs Bennett said: “We were blown away by the creativity of the entries. We had old toys, wellington boots and watering cans.”

As well as being a green award winner, the academy has won an Oxford University Press and Ruth Miskin award for the ‘Read Write Inc’ it does using phonics to teach reading and writing.