Part of the vegetable garden with scarecrow.

Part of the vegetable garden with scarecrow.

More of the veggie garden

More of the veggie garden

Hen House Palace

Hen House Palace

Today is World Environment Day, so I thought it was a good idea to post about the wonderful vegetable garden in the grounds of Stanmore Public School. I was recently fortunate to be taken on a tour of the garden.  I also got to see some magnificent trees too, but more on them later.

The school joined the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program around three years ago. This not-for-profit education program was established by celebrated chef Stephanie Alexander in 2001 to encourage children to think about food differently by learning how to grow & cook their own produce.

A professional gardener, as well as the children & parents manage the garden. Working bees are held often & anyone can ask to join in. This year they had a bumper pumpkin crop, so traded with Alfalfa House in Enmore. You can’t get fresher pumpkins than from down the road.

The garden was created in a corner area of the school grounds that was unused. Some trees were removed, but not all of them. Once again, it proves that you can have trees & a viable vegetable garden. It is a very beautiful space & I found it immediately relaxing to be in. Being Stanmore, there is lots of bird life & I imagine they do a significant amount of free pest control.

The garden is wholly organic & appears to use permaculture principles. A small frog pond was being built & there is a large comfy hen house with six hens, all with names. They enjoy being cuddled by the kids who love spending time with them.

outdoor classroom

outdoor classroom

The hens have limited free-range around the vegetable garden because they are such great diggers & can decimate a garden in a couple of hours with their enthusiasm. Instead the hen house opens to a long stretch behind the tennis courts where fruit trees have been planted. This is plenty of room for hens to do what hens love doing to keep them happy. Small twigs are placed around the base of the fruit trees to protect them. Quite a clever idea I thought.

Near the entrance to the garden is a horseshoe-shaped seat made out of old car tyres with a wooden bench on top. This is where the children have their outdoor lessons before working in the garden. Recycling is an obvious theme in the garden, which is another good thing to be teaching.

There are many compost bins & the chicken poo would add to this. The soil certainly looks black & fertile. Garden beds appear random, but they are not. They have chosen to have a rambling look instead of rows. I particularly liked this as the view changes from wherever you stand in the garden.

There is a nice scarecrow made by the children that stands beside a tree. When I was visiting there were vegetables & herbs galore. I saw the garden again a couple of weeks ago when I attended a Fabric Market & being winter, it was less dense with plants. I watched as people who had come for the markets stopped off to have a look around the garden & I also heard lots of positive comments. With so many of us having small blocks, a large vegetable garden like this is very attractive.

The school has a modern kitchen classroom & the children learn to cook a vast array of recipes. They often show photos on their Facebook page, which can be found under the school’s name.

I think it is a wonderful thing to have these programs in schools & especially a garden where young children learn how to grow plants & have the opportunity to get their hands dirty. With Nature Deficit Disorder an increasingly common problem in our cities, it is terrific to see a school undertake a program that teaches children skills that they can take into adulthood.

Working in a garden & knowing how to grow food is a fundamental step in learning to appreciate & respect nature.   These children will not be the kind who race into the garden with fly spray to kill a spider, as they will know the value of the spider & also how to relocate it if they really need to.

Being in the garden allows children’s brains to take a break from the often hyper-stimulation of modern day learning. Children who spend time in nature have been shown to have less stress, have better learning ability & retention, less anxiety & depression & of course, less obesity issues. Spending time in the vegetable garden also allows children to relax & teaches them how to enjoy the simple slower things in life. It also gets them outdoors & offers them problem-solving opportunities. I would have loved this kind of learning at school when I was a child.

You can read more at the school’s website here – http://stanmorepublicschool.info/kitchengarden/

Now for the trees….. Stanmore Public School is blessed with a large number of big beautiful trees scattered around the playground & buildings, as well as around the perimeter. A large number are significant trees.

I found the following on the school’s history page –

“Stanmore Public School opened in April 1884, probably on Monday, 7 April. The main building was designed to impress with its arched verandah, three sets of steps and the bell tower above.” [It still does impress. It is a glorious building & I am glad it is still standing.]

At its inaugural Arbor Day 1 September 1888 the school planted over 100 trees and shrubs to provide shelter from the sun.  The ceremony was attended by the Minister and other dignitaries. It may have been on this occasion that Sir Henry Parkes planted the Norfolk Island pine still growing at the school today.”

You can read a comprehensive & interesting history of the school here – http://www.stanmorepublicschool.info/OurSchool/?page_id=21

Planted by Sir Henry Parkes in 1888

Planted by Sir Henry Parkes in 1888

The Norfolk Island pine planted by Sir Henry Parkesstands between three veteran Fig trees. It is a healthy & impressive tree. It is wonderful to see such an old & historic tree in great health & protected in the grounds of a school.

The entrance gates on Cambridge Street are beautiful, as is the leafy entrance itself. Large trees grace both inside & outside the gates providing dappled sunlight & much beauty. There is a special atmosphere in the grounds at the front of the school. The building itself is gorgeous & with the arches & steps quite grand. There are seats around the large canopy trees & it feels very special to stand here. I am glad that the school is taking care of these trees.

The parents have recently planted fruit & nut trees along side the fence on Holt Street & already they look great. Other fruit trees have been planted along another fence line near he larger playground. Apart from the beauty & shade that these trees will bring, these trees will also teach other skills to the children.

Beside the entrance gates. I think this is gorgeous.

Beside the entrance gates. I think this is gorgeous.

Inside the school grounds are other wonderful trees. There is a massive Fig in the playground that has bench seating above its roots. The benches serve to protect the roots, as well as allow a shady area for children to congregate.

There was a quite a crowd of adults taking time out under this tree during the Fabric Market. There were many other large trees, all appeared to be in great condition.   Schools have become a repository of old trees, more than or equal to some of our parks.  The variety of species was great to see too.

My visit was about the vegetable garden, so hopefully I can go back one day to see if I can learn more about some of the trees on site. I will post about them with photos if I do.

The vegetable garden is visible from the footpath on Cambridge Street, so if you are walking past it is well worth stopping to have a peek through the fence.  Also, if you are at Alfalfa House, see if they have any of the school’s produce for sale. I reckon it would be a treat to eat.

I made a short video of the vegetable garden here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybUWc8m6kxs

A spectacular tree

A spectacular tree

A wonderful Fig tree

A wonderful Fig tree with newly planted trees on the right.

View into the school from Holt Street

View into the school from Holt Street.

Two of the happy hens

Two of the happy hens with the frog pond visible in the background.

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