They grow rice on their very own rice-paddy and cultivate bananas, tea, and avocados — and some very colourful carnivorous plants.
They’ve also just opened their very own state-of-the-art €8,000 geodosic dome, or geo-dome.
Not bad for a crew of pint-sized gardeners who must contend with the rugged climate of West Cork.
However, it’s all in a day’s work for the pupils of St Patrick’s Boys School in Skibbereen who, along with their enthusiastic teachers, have helped transform about one third of an acre of school land into a truly spectacular garden.
The green-fingered young gurus, who come from all levels of the school, have helped create a sensory path and garden, a zen garden, a living tunnel leading to its own willow dome, and a series of raised vegetable beds, one for each class in the school, which features everything from sweetcorn to onions and potatoes.
Last weekend, the 215 pupils and their teachers threw open the doors to the latest addition to the garden — the geo-dome.
Inside, the boys grow everything from bananas and tea plants to avocado, melons, tomatoes, and squash, as well as a selection of colourful but deadly — to insects — carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap and pitcher plant.
Third-class teacher Brian Granaghan says staff and pupils have worked very hard on garden. Each class has its own vegetable bed, on which the children and their teacher grow a selection of vegetables, berries, and even flowers.
Junior infants, for example cultivate sunflowers and strawberries, first-class pupils grow onions and shallots, while sixth-class pupils concentrate on potatoes.
“Each class grows certain vegetables, so as the pupils progress through the school they will get to grow a good range of fruit and vegetables,” says Mr Granaghan.
The introduction of an in-school gardening club, whose members give up break-time to work on the garden as well as an after-school gardening club, have helped things along considerably, he says.
The soil has also had to be improved with horse-manure, cardboard, and woodchip.
The garden project started last February with the construction of a special sensory path featuring a variety of different surfaces for pupils with autism. It is planned that the sensory garden will also feature plants such as bamboo for sound and lavender for scent.
Next came the vegetable beds, the zen garden in which the children can rake patterns in the sand, and the living tunnel of willow leading to what will eventually become a special woven willow dome.
The addition of the 23sq m geo-dome, installed by local expert Tim Farley, means children can set and harvest more exotic plants earlier in the year than normal.
“We also have some carnivorous plants — Venus fly-traps and pitcher plants,” says Mr Granaghan, adding that the cunning plants, which attract, trap, and consume live insects, are extremely popular with pupils.
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