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.

Green Technicians begin work at Drumchapel High

After a long wait our first Green Technicians began hands-on work supporting the development of the school garden at Drumchapel High. Throughout their training the Green Techs have been developing skills around ecological justice, food growing, and eco-pedagogy, and we are delighted that the time has now come for them to share and build upon these skills in the garden sites themselves.

The group (currently limited in numbers due to current covid guidelines) were introduced to the site and heard about the work undertaken by the Drumchapel students. The Green Techs were impressed with the work undertaken and keen to help develop the site in the school’s vision.

Work began with filling the raised beds with soil, carrying on the work that was started earlier in the week by the students, and planting our first vegetables. A variety of lettuce was selected, with the Green Techs sharing their previous growing experiences (including their failures!) and teaching one another about seeds and planting depths.

Due to covid restrictions the Green Techs are currently working separately from the school students, undertaking work outside of school hours. However, in time we hope to unite the groups and to continue to develop the Green Tech programme as a resource for sharing knowledge, supporting school communities, and challenging climate injustice.

Ready, Steady, Grow!

As restrictions around the UK begin to ease our garden work has taken off again at quite a pace. Whilst school closures have led to limited growing this season, we have been working with schools in different ways to build conversations and skills around food growing, climate change, and the environment.

Work at Drumchapel High continues as the students develop their new food growing site. Raised beds have been constructed by the team from scratch. After a slightly rocky start, students grew in confidence and the site now has 5 raised beds that will be filled in the next few weeks. Ally is incredibly proud of his creation!

The Drumchapel group have also been busy maintaining and expanding their garden space. Benches have been repainted and repaired, plants watered, sunflowers planted, and a fence constructed. An old pallet has also been turned into a new tool shed for keeping the site tidy and organised. It has been noted how many students are using the garden as a social and wellbeing space, to take some much needed time-out from the stresses of tests and assessments.

We have also recently begun a new six-week garden class with new partners Lourdes Secondary School. The school has an enormous – but very underused – garden site, and we are working in collaboration to develop the garden into an outdoor classroom, wellbeing space, and food growing site.

Working with a range of students we started to explore the garden and to generate some new ideas for the space. The group are incredibly enthusiastic and creative, coming up with a range of insights and ideas.

We have also explored together the secrets of soil, thinking carefully about what lies beneath our feet. The group were excellent worm hunters and were excited to engage with the range of non-human others in the garden. Alongside worms, spiders were of particular interest to the students and they shared their stories of living with such creatures in different ways.

Work has also begun with new partners St Mungo’s Academy. Together we are running a 6-week set of classes for S1 and S2 students relating to climate change, food security, and growing practices. The school does not (yet) have its own garden but we are finding ways to work outdoors (when the Glasgow weather allows!).

The group have planted and cared for their own pea plants and sunflowers. They have constructed bird feeders from recycled materials and placed them in the school grounds. A bug box is also under construction with help from the technical department. The group have also been busy discussing the relationships between climate change and food consumption and production. All of the students were very excited about exploring coconuts – so much so that they took one to their technical class in order to open it, just so they could see what was inside!