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Melbourne’s Sandringham Primary School is a great example of how simple beginnings can grow into a flourishing kitchen garden.
Sandringham Primary School’s garden has been transformed from a dry dustbowl into a green oasis thanks to a dedicated school community.
The Melbourne school established a vegetable garden several years ago but the space was not used regularly, and it became run down.
Thanks to the coordinated efforts of some passionate parents and teachers, along with some community funding, the school now has a thriving veggie garden and the beginnings of a kitchen garden program.
Parent and school council member Kylie Hogan says funding from the Sandringham Community Bank (Bendigo Bank), and local traders, helped make the garden transformation possible.
The funds meant the school has been able to employ Laura Myers, a parent at the school who is a horticulturalist and qualified secondary teacher.
Laura has been advising teachers and students on how to care for the garden since last year, with students working on the garden during their lunch breaks. This year, the continuation of funding has meant that Laura is able to start running more structured garden classes with Year 3 and 4 students.
Kylie says funding from local traders also helped the school install an irrigation system and build a large garden shed, which made a big difference to the garden.
She says the school has also drawn on support from local community organisations, such as the local Men’s Shed, which made a large table for the garden that can be used both for potting plants and as a work space for outside learning.
The response to the garden transformation from the school community has been really positive.
“The kids are really excited about it, and so are the parents,” Kylie says.
The school is working towards making links between the kitchen garden program and the Curriculum, and has been using the kitchen garden as an alternative learning space.
Teacher Jenny Parsons, who is leading the school’s kitchen garden program planning, says many of the teachers were already integrating the garden into their lessons.
“We use the garden for lots of things, like for literacy and science classes,” Jenny says.
The school became a member of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation’s Kitchen Garden Classroom to help with planning and resources for their kitchen garden program.
They have purchased the Foundation’s resources, attended face-to-face professional development and enrolled in online professional development.
Jenny says she also regularly accesses the Foundation’s online resource library to build up a bank of kitchen garden resources to help teachers integrate kitchen and garden classes into the Curriculum.
“I’ve been into the Shared Table online resource library and pulled out resources that relate to lesson plans, for example the Rosemary Wreaths activity and Anzac biscuits recipe for Anzac Day lessons. I’ve been pulling resources out and categorising them,” she says.
Now that the school has a productive garden and Curriculum integration planning is underway, the next step is to refurbish their kitchen space.
Kylie says she was working on raising more funds for the kitchen space through a corporate partnership strategy.
The school also started an Environmental Committee to hold fundraising events, such as green dress-up days where students make a gold coin donation to go towards the refurbishment.
Another fundraising plan is to make a Wishing Tree, where each leaf of the tree describes an item of kitchen equipment the school needs, to encourage the school community to donate items.
The school may only have basic kitchen facilities at the moment, but that is not holding them back from running occasional cooking classes with students.
In term 1 this year, Year 6 students harvested zucchini from the school garden and cooked up a zucchini slice, and Year 3 students harvested produce to use in a cooking session with the school’s Mandarin teacher.
Kylie says they hope to expand the frequency of garden classes on offer, and start running structured kitchen classes in the future in the future.
“We’re just taking small steps … we’re focusing on the garden now as I feel that’s the first step – to get that right,” Kylie said.
“I’m a big believer of breaking things down step- by-step. It does require patience.
“I think we are a good example of taking it little by little. You knock something on the head, and then you see what you can do next.”
The enthusiasm and passion of the kitchen garden team at Sandringham Primary School is sure to see big things grow from small beginnings.
To find out how your school can dig into pleasurable food education, head to www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au