Why learn in local greenspace?
St Crispin’s is a school in Edinburgh for children and young people with additional support needs. The school engaged with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society’s (The Caley) Grow and Learn in Nature (GLiN) programme with the aim of connecting young people, teachers and support staff to nature and the community at Saughton Park through horticulture and nature. The teachers all felt it would be something that would benefit the pupils and help with their individual targets and SQA Qualifications.
Finding your local greenspace
The Caley headquarters are at Saughton Park so this was the perfect local greenspace for St Crispin’s to grow and learn. The park had just gone through an £8 million redevelopment and, within the Walled Garden, there is a community room, changing places toilet, winter garden, conservatory, rose garden, band stand, physic garden, community orchard, cafe and a magnificent double herbaceous border (which is thought to be the longest in a public park!).
Accessing your local greenspace
Accessibility for all to enjoy together was at the core of the Saughton Park redevelopment. As well as the changing places toilet, there are disabled parking bays and parking for mini busses, picnic benches that are accessible for wheelchair users, improved pathways, a trampoline for wheelchair users, lightweight tools and raised flower beds.
Using your local greenspace
Teacher, Kerrie McGibbon, and other St Crispin’s’ staff were very supportive of their Grow and Learn Group attending Saughton Park and could really see the benefit to the young people of learning outdoors. No matter the weather, the Grow and Learn Group were outside making connections with nature, spotting wildlife, watering plants, collecting leaves, hugging trees, spotting different colours and shapes of flowers, feeling plants, making bird feeders and smelling flowers and herbs.
One pupil, Aman, obviously enjoyed being outdoors. Despite being non-verbal we heard a lot of happy noises and he was always one of the first to volunteer to pull the Grown and Learn trolley (named Tallulah!) and he enjoyed using the wheel barrow and digging. There wasn’t anything Aman didn’t try and it was lovely to see his confidence grow as he became more familiar with the park.
“Aman and the rest of the class got a huge amount out of the Grow and Learn in Nature course, as did staff. It was great to be outdoors learning about different plants, engaging with activities, identifying different plants and the experience of planting and growing. Aman particularly enjoyed our daffodil bulb planting and this is something we also now have been doing in school. He can now plant bulbs completely independently having learned in Saughton Park gardens. It’s lovely to see him apply this knowledge in school; being able to independently plant the bulb and help care for the plants we have been growing in school.”
Improving your local greenspace
Pupils collected leaves to make mulch for the flower beds and keep the pathways clear and less slippery, and picked up litter to keep the park tidy. They enjoyed using the litter picker for these tasks, which was a great way to improve their hand eye coordination and dexterity. Members of the public often asked what they were doing and why and were very impressed that the group were getting involved in improving the park. The school also took park in the ‘Volunteers Matter’ community volunteering programme, planting daffodil bulbs, a blackberry bush and an apple tree in the Caley demonstration garden, which really highlighted how everyone can make a difference to their local space.
Spreading and embedding learning in local greenspace
Other partners at Saughton Park also got involved; The Friends of Saughton Park (FoSP) and head gardener, Alan McMahon, kept everyone right.
Sarah Bennet, Community Orchard Group Leader from FoSP said:
"It was great to see everyone contribute to the Saughton Park Community Orchard for others to enjoy – planting trees is not just good for the planet, it’s great fun too”
Kerrie feels more confident learning and teaching outdoors:
“I would not hesitate to use the park again with my classes. Working with the Caley has given us all experience in delivering outdoor education. It is accessible to all levels and abilities of pupils and gives our pupils a place in which they can learn in a safe environment. I would also hope that the Caley will have felt they have learned something extra from our pupils and staff, on how to deliver an adapted, inclusive programme for pupils and even some sign along too!”