“Can we do it again next week?”: The Science Festival comes to Drumchapel High

The garden at Drumchapel High was bursting with activity in September as 100 S1 pupils from across the school came to take part in the Glasgow Science Festival. The garden became a space for learning, squealing, digging, and having fun (despite the rain!) with pupils getting the opportunity to explore the worlds beneath their feet, learn about micro-bits, and plant their own wildflower seeds. Pupils enjoyed the opportunity to explore the spaces of the garden and to work outdoors. For many this was their first experience of their school garden and they left wanting to come back and to lean more. Some pupils noted that “I didn’t want to come out but really enjoyed it”, “it was fun”, and that “I loved learning about the garden”.

As we explored the soil underneath their feet in real time, pupils got the opportunity to encounter earthly companions such as worms and caterpillars. Causing the usual mixed reaction of screams and squeals. For some these encounters were the most meaningful of the day with one pupil stating that “holding the worms was so good”. 

The event was a collaborative effort between the School, IGA, Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland, and Glasgow Life, and a wonderful opportunity to use the garden for outdoor learning. John, an original and ongoing contributor to the garden group, was on site helping for the whole session showing his commitment to expanding the reach of the garden to new members of the school community.

Thank you to the Glasgow Science Festival for the opportunity to develop this event and we hope to work in partnership again in the future.

Welcome to Govan High School

Over the last few weeks the IGA has begun work with Govan High School in Glasgow. Working in partnership with 6 S4 pupils and alongside Dr Benjamin Murphy and Rosanna Harvey-Crawford, we are transforming an overgrown area of the school into a food growing site.

So far we have worked on weeding, litter-picking and cutting back the raised beds. Students have been making lists for what to grow in the spring, including potatoes, tomatoes, and strawberries to be used in the school’s home economics classes.

In the run up to COP26 coming to Glasgow we have been discussing issues of climate change, ecological anxiety, and climate justice with the group. The students have shared their worries about the planet and the future and have created protest posters to represent their feelings about climate justice.

We are delighted to be working with the school and are looking forward to developing the site into the summer. 

Ecological Anxiety and Community Building

Over the last few weeks we have been conducting research into ecological anxiety and world building with our Green Technicians. At a particularly worrying time when the world is feeling threatened by increasing wildfires, drought, and extreme heat it has been inspiring to hear from our Green Techs about their concerns and hopes for the future.

During the interviews we heard about the range of anxieties felt about the planet and the ways in which these occupy the lives of many young people struggling to cope with the uncertainties of the future. One Green Tech shared:

I am very anxious about the planet’s wellbeing and it’s gotten to the point where I often feel guilty doing anything. … I don’t know what to expect for the future – Will it get better? Will it get worse? I’m constantly thinking should I be doing more even though I know it doesn’t fall on my responsibility solely, but that’s how you feel.

Students noted that working on the Green Technician programme was helpful in challenging some of these anxieties and channelling the possibilities for creating hopeful futures. A core aspect of this was the creation of a space where people could come together to share and discuss their concerns and to think about solutions. Reflecting on the sessions one Green Tech said:

What I loved about it was that everyone was so nice and there were so many like-minded people. I loved going into the little break out rooms and talking about things that were important to us and important to everyone else and connecting ideas.

We are very grateful to all our Green Techs for taking part in this research and being such an integral component of our IGA community. As we reflect further on the experiences shared in the interviews we also think about our own ecological anxieties and the ways in which working with the Green Techs has helped reaffirm our imaginings of hopeful new worlds.

Cement and Sculptures

Work has continued at our Glasgow wellbeing garden in collaboration with GUEST. Over the past few weeks we have been working with our Green Technician volunteers and members of GUEST to repair a stone planter in the garden. This will form a key feature of the wellbeing space where we hope people will be able to sit, relax, and reflect in their garden surroundings.

Working with concrete to resituate and secure the loose stones was more challenging than we first thought but after a few unsuccessful tries (with the wrong concrete!) we finally managed to secure our first stones in place. We all found the task relaxing and suggested that working with such a tactile material, and slowly piecing them together like a giant stone jigsaw, was a therapeutic activity in-and-of itself.

A key part of developing the wellbeing garden has been considering the important connections between nature, mental health, and the arts. Local artists Agnes Jones and Louise Mcvey designed and installed a beautiful steel sculpture to act as a wonderful centrepiece for the wellbeing area.

Over the next few sessions we will continue to repair the planter and to begin planting around the sculpture with a range of fragrant plants such as lavender and freesias. We will then be starting work on digging out an old abandoned planter to make way for planting our new wildflower area.

Learning outdoors this week – why it’s vital.

Learning outdoors – there is nothing more rewarding. This week we’ve been really impressed with the scientific curiosity and enthusiasm of our primary school students in Bradford. The pandemic has forced so much education to be done digitally – so the opportunity to be outdoors has never been more vital!

Outdoor education, at its best, enables young people to discover how our world is built, how life thrives (often against the odds), and how we can make a positive difference to the planet. And all of this can be done by activating the range of our bodily senses – many of which are limited by indoor environments.

Here you can see us clearing the weeds that had taken over the raised beds! We then transplanted the herbs we started indoors, ready to be harvested and taken home this summer!

One observation we made this week was how fascinated students are for the organisms that live in the soil. Lots of worm and beetle-related discussion as we were planting the herbs.

Summer Break for Scottish Schools!

This week signaled our final IGA school sessions in Lourdes Secondary, St Mungo’s Academy, and Drumchapel High. Over the last term we have worked with groups of students from across 1st to 6th year on topics and activities relating to climate change, food growing, planting, secrets of soil, and much more!

During this time students have learned key gardening skills, debated issues of climate change and food insecurity, and made a range of new non-human friends – including Tim the giant worm! When asked what they have enjoyed the most about the classes many students note being outdoors and learning more about the world. As one student wrote “I have enjoyed the garden classes because they are fun” and we are delighted that it has been as fun for the students as it has been for us.

We are so proud of all of the students that have taken part and look forward to working with the schools again after the summer break. As our work pauses in Scotland it continues in Leeds, with more garden classes and growing initiatives underway.

Building Non-Human Worlds

As the weather heats up across the UK our garden activity continues to develop at a rapid pace. Development of our food growing site at Drumchapel High continues to take shape with students planting corn, radishes, peas, strawberries, and blackberries in the raised beds. The peas were grown from seed by the group – revived from near death by Ally – and the students were pleased to finally be able to plant them outside.

The group at Lourdes Secondary are also continuing with their pea growing and have been preparing the raised beds for planting outside next week. The group undertook an exercise on the environment, thinking carefully about issues of rubbish and recycling. After a successful litter pick across the garden, students reused some of the rubbish that they found and turned these into bird feeders to place in the garden.

Wellbeing Garden Work Begins

In collaboration with Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team (GUEST), the IGA has created plans to develop a wellbeing garden area in the university’s Wildlife Garden. It is hoped that this will become an important space for students, staff, and other members of the community, including schools, to use to support mental health and wellbeing through an engagement with nature.

Work began on site this week to start developing the garden space. The garden is a large space and the demarcated area for the wellbeing site is located in the middle section. To enhance access we worked on recreating a clear pathway by laying and flattening bark.

Over the coming months we aim to put the Green Technicians plans into action by developing the site in a number of ways. We hope to repair and rejuvenate raised beds, create a wildflower area, develop a mindfulness sand garden, and much more!

This space aims to work as a sister site to one being developed at the University of Leeds and we are looking forward to exploring the potential of these sites for challenging ecological anxiety in the years to come.