Thursday 21 November 2019

Pupils’ crop to fork project gives food for thought

Horeswood NS pupils see the fruits (and veg) of their labours with new project, while St Senan's pupils in Enniscorthy take to the streets to voice their concerns over climate change

2nd and 4th Class Scoil Mhuire Horeswood pupils with some of their vegetable bounty in the school garden
2nd and 4th Class Scoil Mhuire Horeswood pupils with some of their vegetable bounty in the school garden

David Looby

Pupils at a primary school in south Wexford have been making the most of the fine autumn weather by creating their own vegetable patch, even making soup from their produce.

This is all part of a future forward environment Erasmus project called 'Enriching Lives/Opening Minds' that the children are working in conjunction with a Spanish school.

The green minded school was paired with a school from a town near Barcelona in January. Second and Fourth class pupils have been working on reducing their carbon footprint through composting and gardening. Each month of the school calendar year they tackle a different environmentally important issue through creative projects.

The composting and vegetable garden project has mushroomed over recent weeks, with Scoil Mhuire Horeswood pupils working on it every day, weather permitting.

Second Class teacher Louise Cosgrove said: 'A lot of work was up and running by September. We have a school garden which is going very well and there are lots of vegetables growing in it. It's very well maintained.'

Composting bins are located throughout the school and pupils have learned the difference between foods which can be composted and foods which cannot.

'When we have such a good school garden we need to be making the best use of it. We weren't composting correctly,' Ms Cosgrove said.

Fourth Class pupils researched the best leftover foods and greenery to go into compost for use in the garden and have been informing their schoolmates. 'When composting was first introduced we were told you could put everything into it but some of the waste is not ideal for the garden.'

Giant onions, 'wonky looking' carrots, butternut squash, courgettes, raspberries and giant rhubarb stalks have all be grown in the garden over the summer and autumn and pupils are now seeing the fruits of their labours. 'They go out to weed in the garden. You can see the different since September. They are out in the middle of the garden and they love digging and getting their hands dirty. They are seeing that carrots with pimples on them, as they say, are the same and as useful as the straight carrots they see in the supermarket.'

Second and Fourth classes have been learning about reducing their carbon footprint also, aiming for zero carbon at school. Ms Cosgrove's pupils monitored their dinners for a week and checked the packaging to find out where their food came from. 'Everything feeds back into carbon.'

Ms Cosgrove, who is from a farming background, has been encouraging pupils to appreciate local produce, as has Fourth Class teacher Lenora Warner with her pupils. Ms Cosgrove said: 'They have even counted the footsteps from classroom to school garden to get an understanding of what zero carbon means.'

She brought in plums she bought in a supermarket which transpired to have come from Chile to show how far food is being shipped to local supermarkets.

Ms Warner said her pupils have, since September, got stuck in, literally, to the task of creating a garden. The whole school has gotten involved in the garden which was developed by teacher Denis Cadogan, who has retired from Scoil Mhuire Horeswood, but is still contributing in a positive way to school life.

'We bedded vegetables and fruit. We looked at the carbon footprint and surveyed and interviewed children asking them if they knew what a carbon footprint is. The children are coming back from the weekly shop with their parents and are conscious of the fuel used.'

Both she and Ms Cosgrove have been highlighting the quality of local produce and the positive impact on the environment there is by consuming locally grown and made products.

To this end they did a farm to fork project, using raspberries grown in their garden to make jam and vegetables to make soup.

'It was a case of from farm to spoon for us. The children have learned that regarding food the lower the carbon footprint the better. The younger pupils have been very enthusiastic about growing their own vegetables, even at home.'

The pupils have been composting in September and early October. They are turning their attention to their own school lunches and have written to local lunch provider Fresh Today, based in Enniscorthy, about what goes into their sandwiches and the amount of plastic used.

Ms Cosgrove is planning to bring the pupils to a local supermarket to show them where produce that may find its way into their homes comes from. 'Going forward consumer awareness will become increasingly important. The pupils are going home and are looking in the cupboards.'

Laura Sinnott from local jam company, Wexford Home Preserves, visited the school recently highlighting to pupils how a business can source world class produce locally.

'They will continue working on this for the whole year. We are hoping that by correctly using our own organic compost material in our garden to have a zero carbon footprint by using our own compost it will increase the bounty of our harvest next year.'

Horeswood NS pupils will next turn their attention to reducing plastics in our oceans, seas and rivers. The eagle eyed pupils have targeted reducing plastic use within the school, but also at home. 'They have gone spreading awareness and some pupils have asked for toys that don't require plastic packaging or don't have plastic in them. The focus is on reducing the amount of plastic we are using at the moment. In November we have decided to focus on reducing plastics with a focus on their impact on the environment. We're looking at our oceans and how micro-plastics affect and impact them. Even in the Galapagos where their is little human habitation plastics are washing up on the shores. We will survey the children to see what level of awareness they have.'

Pupils will also travel to a nearby beach for a clean up, with staff from Oceanics Surf School in Waterford, where they will learn about how fish ingest plastics and the damage plastic causes to our ecosystem.

Another benefit of the project is that pupils are away from their phones and technology, immersed in the wonder of nature.

Ms Cosgrove said: 'It's more hands on. A lot of them didn't have an appreciation of what digging in a garden, chopping up the produce and making soup is like. They got to taste the end product and loved it. Both teachers, along with two of their colleagues who are doing a different Erasmus project in conjunction with the Spanish school, have been updating their colleagues in Spain through an online live space and Twitter.

'We update them and they update us throughout the life of the project. Laorgas and Erasmus are linked as we have to show what we are doing in the project.'

Gorey Guardian