Garden elective begins!

Catherine and Victoria oversee the cool new garden guides!

Another cold and wet Friday in Glasgow saw the gardening elective get underway at Boclair Academy. As an introductory session, it was an opportunity for the young people to meet Cheryl, Ian and Catherine, hear about the International Green Academy and check out their new garden guides! They also learned a bit about eco-anxiety and filled in the questionnaire we piloted last week.

Despite some concerns about having to deal with worms and dirt, lots of the young people said that learning to grow food was their main goal for the elective. They won’t have to wait long to get growing, as next week we’ll be starting off our peas indoors!

Feb 18th, 2019 – Partner meeting at Boclair

Today, Cheryl and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet all of the external partners who work with learners at Boclair Academy. It was so very inspiring – hearing how much care is poured into the school from organizations tackling mental health and wellbeing, domestic abuse, as well as partners offering vocational training and charity work (shout out to Anne from Alzheimer’s Scotland), and even staff from four primary schools (hello to Elspeth from Killermont). The school community is fabulous, and really made Cheryl and I appreciate the work that is done in these spaces.

No visit would be complete, of course, without saying hello to our favourite geography teachers, Victoria, Julie, and Ruth. Excited to start the elective with you guys on Friday!

Green Technician programme begins! – reflections from Catherine

On a very wet and cold Friday afternoon we held the first Green Technicians training session at Glasgow university. This was our first chance to meet as a group, introduce ourselves to the Technicians and outline the background of the overall project.

The first half of the session was organised as a presentation. Ian explained how the Technicians involvement links into the International Green Academy and spoke of our partners in Arizona, and then Cheryl outlined the project so far and what the Technicians will be getting up to over the next few months.

During a break for lunch, Catherine piloted the questionnaire that will be given out this week to the school pupils doing the gardening elective at Boclair. The students were very responsive and open to chat about the issues raised in the questionnaire, as well as potential ways the questionnaire itself could be improved.

The second half of the session gave the students more of a chance to discuss their ideas and knowledge around school gardens. The group split in two to discuss these questions:

  • What is a garden?
  • What can a garden do?

All the participants got involved straight away and contributed really brilliant thoughts and ideas. Encouragingly, they had a lot of suggestions for ways that school gardens can help young people to think practically about how they can be more ecologically responsible.

In both groups, participants discussed the benefit of gardens as non-hierarchical spaces and how this can allow for more dynamic and egalitarian forms of learning and exchange. 

The students also seemed to feel very positively about how the school garden can connect to its wider community through the accessibility of cheap, healthy food. The capacity to grow vegetables was discussed in relation to its ability to tackle health and social inequalities. Good quality, healthy food was seen as unaffordable, and the group discussed the knock-on effects of this relating to mental and physical health. Therefore, gardens were discussed as radical sites of transformation as they give communities the opportunity to become self-sufficient rather than reliant on a hostile economic system.

The fact that everybody needs to eat was framed as a positive way to rally people round a cause, rather than a problem to be solved. It was suggested that by giving kids the skills to grow food, they could go and empower their local communities by passing on this knowledge. All of this made us so excited to see out the rest of the project with such an enthusiastic and compassionate group of young people.

14 Feb, 2020: Kicking off the Green Technician Program!

Setting up this shot was surprisingly tricky!

Today we launched the Green Technician Program! We were delighted to be accompanied by amazing students from Geographical and Earth Sciences. The excitement was palpable, and we can’t wait to harness that energy to make a difference in Glasgow schools. The purpose of our first meeting was to orient the students about the wider aims of the International Green Academy, and prepare them for their journey to help transform outdoor learning. We ran a couple of brainstorming sessions–including asking them to think about both “what is a school garden”, but more importantly, “what can a school garden do?” We finished by coming up with a logo for our forthcoming uniforms!

How can we build progressive urban ecologies?
Agnes leads the charge.
Catherine takes notes!
A brief clip of one of the many discussions.
The logo workshop begins….currently it looks like a globe with trees and buildings on it!
Gardens can create a sense of ownership, food autonomy, and enable playfulness and imagination
School gardens are non-hierarchical – build circles instead of dividing lines between learners and educators.

Rebuilding – 7th Feb, 2020

Our first visit back to the garden at Boclair last week was one of restoration. The wet and windy Scottish winter had taken some toll on the site, especially the shed, and work was required to repair cracks and holes that appeared in windows and doors. In preparation for the next Garden Elective beginning in a few weeks, we organised the
shed creating hooks, spaces and shelves for tools and equipment. The site itself required some reassembling with planters being found, rubbish cleared and benches put back into place.

The shed is repaired and alive again!


Yet it was not just the garden itself that went through a process of rebuilding. We–as a team–reconnected on site, sharing our joy of working experientially and collaboratively.

Cheryl and Catherine get digging!

The next few months will be a busy time for the project and our time spent reconnecting with the garden in a restorative fashion gave us an important opportunity to reflect, take stock and feel excited about all the things that are coming next.

Who knew a shed could make Cheryl so happy?
The whisky barrels are such a neat addition to the garden
No missing hammer!

Introducing Catherine Holmes!

Hi! I’m Catherine Holmes and I’m really pleased to be joining the team here in Glasgow as a research assistant on the school gardens project.

I first got involved as a volunteer last summer whilst completing the Master of Research programme in Human Geography. At this time, I was undertaking research investigating

 the relationship between conservation, nature and private capital in the Scottish highlands. I had also just joined a community garden in the south side of Glasgow and was delighted in the sense of excitement and contentment that spending time outdoors learning to grow plants and vegetables gave me. As we continue to struggle to reclaim land for community use across Scotland, I believe it is important that we have the opportunity to reignite our curiosity with and connection to the spaces we inhabit. Gardens are an amazing way to do this.

Having witnessed (and felt!) the happiness that growing things can give people of all ages, I’m really looking forward to being a part of a project extending this opportunity to young people in Glasgow.