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Connecting Schools to Nature

8 April 2008
Growing School Garden 

Dipping pond for children in the

Growing Schools Garden

The first ever Growing Schools conference in the UK was a complete sell out with over 200 teachers attending. The aim of the day was to inspire and encourage schools (nursery, primary, secondary and special) to use the outdoor classroom, both in and beyond the school grounds, as a context for learning across the curriculum.

Organised by Botanic Garden Education Network (BGEN) and hosted by Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, the conference held on 7 April involved a range of Growing School partners including botanic gardens (University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Westonbirt Arboretum), the Royal Horticultural Society and other NGOs including The Soil Association, The Eden Project and the Field Studies Council. The day consisted of :

  • an informal market place where teachers could find out what organisations and resources are available to support their teaching outside the classroom and
  •  a series of workshops including school grounds development, growing vegetables in school, food security, ‘The Green Man Project’, ‘Hot Art’ and plants and food sustainability. 
spider and web - GS Garden 

Spider sculpture and web at the

Growing Schools Garden


Chris Beardshaw, designer of the Growing Schools Garden which won a Gold Medal at Hampton Court in 2007 gave the key note introductory speech.  This was followed by Peter Carne from the UK Government Department of Children, Schools and Families (DSCF) who gave an update on the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto, which advocates children having direct experience with the world outside the classroom.  An ‘Out and About’ support package will soon be available for schools providing guidance on planning, funding and evaluating learning outside the classroom and this will be supported with a series of Continuing Professional Development modules for teachers.  Educational providers will also be required to have a LOtC Quality Badge to demonstrate to schools that they offer a high quality teaching and learning experience and are safe. 

During the conference, the Growing Schools Garden was unveiled by Chris Beardshaw.  The Garden is now permanently housed at Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses and offers a wonderful environment for learning.

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