The 21 children in Andrew Foley’s senior infant class were shocked to see him eat a stem of cress straight from the pot.
‘You can’t be eating flowers’, they told him.
Since then, these pupils at St Aidan’s Parish School, Enniscorthy, have come a long way in terms of grasping where vegetables come from.
They are the GIY and innocent drinks ‘Big Grow’ 2019 Champions and recently attended Bloom, where they were presented with a trophy, certificate and gold-coloured smoothie bottle.
The Big Grow is in full bloom as we encourage you all to get growing at home. So go on, sign up for a Home Kit, get your trowels out and prepare to make friends with some veggies (and maybe a bit of dirt). Sign up here: https://t.co/tWxUabfnIP pic.twitter.com/7qqI4noJC4— innocent Ireland (@innocentIreland) February 19, 2019
Through the Big Grow initiative and through planting cress and pea shoots, they learned how to grow their own food in the classroom.
“They really engaged with learning how to take care of the plants and give them the correct nutrition. They learned what’d happen if the plants were in or out of the sun or if they got too dry or too cold. They’d rush in to make sure the soil was moist enough,” says Foley, adding that his pupils wanted photos with their plants.
"We smelled the plants daily and I planted some in a clear container so we could see the roots growing. They learned about the root system and how the leaf works.
Foley says his pupils – who mainly live in the town and wouldn’t have access to farms — were happy to try their own cress and pea shoots when they were ready.
“One boy managed to eat all of his cress walking from our classroom to the main door, having nothing left in his pot to show his father when he was collected at home-time.”
The children didn’t lose interest in their plants once they got them home.
“One girl brought her cress back to show us. It had grown twice as tall as when it left and it had begun to flower too, teaching both the children and me that cress can flower.
Thanks @giyireland and @innocentIreland for the trip to Bloom Festival last week. It was a very memorable trip for us. The children have been thrilled receiving praise for recognition of their growing skills. pic.twitter.com/Ee60lPDbl2— S Infants: Mr. Foley (@afoleystaidans) June 6, 2019
“Other children have been to the hardware shop to get cress seeds – they wanted to grow them at home,” says Foley.
While this was the school’s second time entering The Big Grow competition, it was these particular pupils’ first edible growing project.
Foley says he intends to continue the tradition.
“It’d be nice for the kids to do a longer-term growth for a more substantial edible plant as they go into higher classes.
"I’ll definitely continue to grow seeds yearly — it’s an invaluable learning tool for senior infants.”