Community Project Learning Log
For my community project, I volunteered to tidy the ‘community garden’ situated on campus at the university. This was a project set up by a previous year to provide a space that people could use to relax and reflect. The community garden is open for all students and staff of the university and over the years has been a place of reflection to friends who are no longer with us. These friends are remembered through personal plaques which are engraved onto the three benches. Over the years and throughout the harshest winters and climate change, the garden began to turn into a state of disarray. Due to it currently being winter also, it was no longer the peaceful and relaxing area of the university that it once was. I was part of a group of four students who were tasked to try and bring some life back to the much-loved community garden. In summary we cleared vast amount of floor space of leaves that had fallen throughout autumn and cleared the flower beds of weeds making them ready for the year ahead. It was difficult to try and bring the garden back to what it was due to the factors affecting us such as the weather and resources available. It was a cold, windy morning when we started working on the garden and this made it a little challenging in terms of what we could do. The teams original plan was to paint the welcome entrance to the garden as well as the three memory benches however due to the weather this was not possible. Working on the garden became a challenge when we were restricted as to what we could actually do in terms of making it more scenic and welcoming.
What surprised me was my motivation and enjoyment that I actually got out of working in the cold for a few hours. Gardening is something that I’ve never really experimented with growing up therefore this was my first real hands on experience. Working alongside my closest friends within university was also a huge factor as to what kept us working in the awful weather conditions. We work well as a team which has been proven in previous projects as well as this one and we encourage each other to be the best form of ourselves. Team work is a huge part of teaching and education as there are so many other professionals and individuals involved throughout your day to day routine. Personally, I think a teacher cannot make it through a school day without the support and guidance from another individual whether this be a quick conversation in the staff room or the support of a specialist within the classroom. Working on the community garden, it was also clear that communication was key as it allowed for the team work to take place. Before we began the project, we discussed different roles and tasks that we would each individually be doing throughout the day. This quick briefing is crucial as it allows everyone to work towards the common goal and ensures that roles are not being duplicated by multiple individuals. Communication does allow for teamwork to occur and this is the same within any education setting. Communication is key as it allows for different personalities or viewpoints to mix and collaborate together which may not have happened previously. This project allowed for us to bond more as a team and to improve our communication and teamworking skills which we will progress with us throughout university and then later throughout our teaching careers.
I can see that at one time, the university community garden meant a lot to some people as it was a free and open thinking space with only the sounds of nature and the river to distract you. It was clear the effort that went into the project initially as we could see the ruins of their work which was distressing as it almost felt as if it had been forgotten about over the years as students moved on and progressed their careers away from university. I would like for it to regain its rightful status within our university’s campus however that would require more resources and manpower than a group of four students working on a cold morning for a few hours.
I can see how this community project fits well into the theme of sustainable development and how I can integrate this into my teaching career. Most schools have some form of community or peace garden that the students, usually the eco committee, work on throughout the year. If schools do not then I can see this being a useful project for a class as it allows them to learn outdoors and try something new. Some pupils may not have a garden at home therefore will never get to experience gardening similar to my childhood. By allowing them to work on a topic like sustainable development and community gardens then you are allowing children to flourish in an aspect of the curriculum that they might have never before.
Reflection on Sustainable Development throughout Placement
At my placement primary school, there is a vast amount of outdoor play space for the children to play in during interval and lunch time. This ranges from traditional concrete ground, a raised grass football pitch and barked woodland area. From my experience in primary schools, this is probably the most effective use of outdoor space and allows the children to explore in ways they wouldn’t normally. The barked woodland area has a wooden assault course or the ‘trim trail’ spanning the length of it therefore allows the children to challenge themselves outside of the classroom. I think having both concrete ground and grass areas are very beneficial to a school as it allows for different learning and games to take place. The grass pitch could also be used for PE during warmer periods of the year. Even on wet days, children could still partake in outdoor games such as football as a football pitch has been painted onto the concrete area of the playground. Other traditional games have also been painted onto the concrete for example ‘hopscotch’ and ‘snakes and ladders’. I think the space is suitable and used well at my placement school as there is still vast areas of open space for children to explore themselves and be creative and play using their vivid imaginations.
The nature garden area is closed off to pupils during break and lunch times due to it extending to the rear of the school therefore out of an adult’s supervision. However, this is an area that has been used effectively by all classes throughout their own individual projects. Each classroom is designated a ‘bed’ in which it is up to them to choose what they want to plant or grow depending on what they are learning within their classroom. Due to the time of year that it is, most beds are empty or have overgrown due to our everchanging climate, but you can see evidence of the work that has been carried out by the classes for example the sunflowers shown below. My placement school have a keen interest in the environment and being eco-friendly as they have successfully obtained their third eco flag. It is built into the ethos of the school and an ongoing topic throughout the year for all classes. The recycling bins that are situated around the school were all designed by pupils through an eco-friendly competition. The picture below shows one of the many designs which is ‘bee clean’. The school also has an eco-committee, with representatives from each class, that meet monthly to discuss sustainable education within the school and how they could improve and raise awareness of the environment.
After discussing with my P4 class, we came to a conclusion that they are happy with their playground and outdoor spaces however would change a few things if possible. On days when there are light showers or had been previously, children are advised not to play on the grass areas due to health and safety concerns. On severe wet days, children are kept indoors and allowed to play within their own classroom. The children I spoke with were happy with the playground and enjoy break times however highlighted a few things they would change, if they could. Firstly, the trim trail is made up of three obstacles however the children wondered if they could make this longer allowing them to have more fun and challenge themselves further during break times. A common playtime game for children is ‘tig’ or ‘hide and seek’ and the children commented that there is adequate space for this as there is lots of free space to run about. The girls commented that sometimes during lunch, they are accidently hit with the football from the concrete pitch which is on ground level. Their solution to this was to build a fence around the concrete pitch which is of course a suitable suggestion but for this playground it wouldn’t be suitable. My placement primary school also benefits from picnic benches however these have traditional board games permanently on top. The children told me that these don’t get used often due to them not having an interest in the games but also because the seats are uncomfortable and need renewed. As a whole, the focus group of children that I spoke with were satisfied with the playground and deemed it as suitable as well as the school’s aspects of sustainable education.