At Shamblehurst School we know that children’s mental health and wellbeing are as important as, and have a substantial impact upon, their attainment. We are working hard to promote and improve mental wellbeing in all of our children, and this project is a central aspect of this work. We are raising funds to build a ‘School Farm’ with an outdoor learning area, allotment, orchard, pygmy goats, chickens and bees. We believe the benefits are so important and compelling that we intend not just to bring them to our school, but to share our experiences and produce with the local community and to showcase our success to other schools, to inspire them to start their own school farming journey.
Research shows that spending time in nature, connecting with others, and the opportunity to be creative, are all crucial for good mental health and wellbeing (New Economics Foundation 2008). The School Farm project will be part of a wide-ranging, fully embedded approach by the school, which also includes the Daily Mile and sleep promotion. Every child in the school will benefit from this project, developing skills across maths, science and social education, collaboratively planning and achieving their goals. We will plant an orchard to attract pollinators as well as providing a range of fruit. We will grow vegetables that we can use in our school kitchen, and sell to the local community, promoting enterprise. We will care for and learn about animals as well as producing eggs and honey. The children will be involved at every stage of this project, from designing the allotment to caring for the animals; learning how to cook with the produce and selling at a farmers’ market.
Studies show that there are benefits to children who face additional challenges in their home life from caring for animals, building trust and empathy. Care of the goats, chickens and bees will be shared, promoting consideration of animal welfare and an opportunity to build understanding and relationships with the animals for children who may not have a pet.
Planning and growing flowers, fruit and veg allows children to be in the moment and re-engage with the natural world around them, particularly if they do not have this opportunity at home, or don't have access to a garden. They will learn about growing techniques, and gain an understanding of where food comes from and the effort it takes to grow. They will experience the satisfaction of watching their plants grow and tasting how delicious they are at harvest time. Children will gain an appreciation of the benefits of eating seasonally, and the importance of not wasting the food they have grown.
By working together and helping each other, children will be able to build their knowledge and share it with others. We will encourage the children to pass on their skills and knowledge to their family and start to grow their own food at home too.
We aim to inspire a real, sustainable change, the impact of which will go far beyond our school community.