Bloomin’ boastful, and why not?

There’s an old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them” and this is what we did at St Patrick’s Primary School, Cessnock when it came to keeping children out of our gardens. We put in paths made up of stepping-stones that allow the children to enjoy the gardens, while reducing their impact on this precious habitat.

The path itself has a magical quality as it weaves in and around the garden, beckoning the children to come and explore. And that’s exactly what they do with passion and excitement. Not only do the children take delight in enjoying the gardens, but they have also taken ownership by “joining” the St Patrick’s Garden Club.

It’s a very informal club, and students can opt in and out whenever they feel like it. But one noticeable aspect of the Garden Club is the number of students who consistently turn up and forgo their lunchtime and recess to be there. In the world of Bloom and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, these children are the Nature Lovers; the students who like to be outdoors getting their hands dirty and not necessarily in the classroom.

Pardon the pun, but I try to plant seeds with these students and talk about future career paths in horticulture, agriculture, landscaping, and even with National Parks and Wildlife. The sky’s the limit.

The students have planted all our latest additions to the gardens. These include an azalea, several daisies, a jasmine, lavender, an orange trumpet creeper, several nandinas, a conifer, a cordyline, and numerous succulents that always provide great value because of their drought tolerance. In the process, the children learn about the different names and how to plant.

We had an interesting experience with a Year 1 boy who asked if he could plant something. I gave him a pot that had a flower seedling in it and suggested he plant it near a nandina. When I went to check on him later, I found the boy had done an excellent job of planting the seedling; the only problem was he planted the pot in the ground as well. You would think by now I would know not to make assumptions about our learners. But it was funny, and I’m pleased to say a Year 4 boy sorted it out.

The cost of plants, tools, gloves, and fertilisers is not been borne by the school, but by money raised from our ongoing recycling program. Over the holidays, more than $300 was spent locally at a nursery and Bunnings. It’s a win-win situation for all involved as the children are encouraged to recycle their drink containers, which are converted into cash, and then spent locally for the benefit of the school.

We still have a long way to go with the gardens, but we will get there. The idea of integrating the Stations of the Cross into the gardens was put forward and has been discussed with our local parish priest Father James Lunn, and our newly appointed Principal, Maree Jones. The idea has merit.

St Patrick’s has recently applied for a $500 grant through Clubs NSW to revegetate the front of the school on Wollombi Road. Last year, the school was successful in acquiring a $500 grant to upgrade the watering system on the fields. Recently, we applied and were successful with a donation of native plants and compost from Cessnock City Council. Bunnings is also generous when it comes to sponsoring community projects, especially school projects.

The money and resources are out there for schools, it’s just a matter of making the time to put the application in motion. We’re very proud of our school grounds and gardens, and may I say without sounding too boastful, that St Patrick’s Primary School, Cessnock has the best gardens throughout the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.

Visit the Club Grants NSW here.

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