Helen O’Callaghan looks at the Sow & Grow project at work.
THE first class children at St John the Baptist NS, Midleton, were astonished when they first saw a pomegranate.
“They were totally blown away when we opened it and they saw all the seeds inside,” says teacher Deirdre Stoutt, who got her 28 pupils involved with ‘Sow & Grow’, a GIY and Innocent Drinks project that aims to get primary schoolchildren sowing and growing their own vegetables.
“I felt it would be interesting for them to learn all about growing and to taste their produce at the end. About half of the class had a good idea where food came from — some had done lots of sowing with grandparents. For others, it was a whole new experience.”
The project started off small, with the class planting cress, peas and spinach.
“They got so into it, I just went with it. We got more vegetables. We carried out experiments about what plants need.
"We did loads of creative writing, kept a diary about how each plant was getting on and recorded what they thought of the taste. I tied it in with other subjects — English, Music.”
Stoutt reports the children were greatly surprised by the length of time from planting seeds to finally getting to eat the vegetable.
At the end of the year, the class — some had never eaten blueberries or mange tout before ‘Sow & Grow’ — threw a salad party, sharing their favourite fruit and veg.
The class won the 2016 top prize for most engaged ‘Sow & Grow’ school. This year, the benefits continue.
“You see a change in lunchboxes, with new fruit and veg — blueberries, melon, cucumber, radishes.”
The school is growing 30 different vegetables and is involved again with ‘Sow & Grow’ 2017 — current first class pupils are planting cress, carrots and runner beans.
Over the last five years ‘Sow & Grow’ has enabled 100,000 Irish primary schoolchildren learn to grow vegetables in the classroom.
According to GIY, experiencing the joy of growing and eating their own food fosters ‘food empathy’ in children, a deeper connection with food that leads to better long-term health.
* Teachers can apply for a free Sow & Grow pack at https://innocentsowandgrow.com.
Once registered, schools can share their growing journeys online.
The Most engaged ‘Sow & Grow’ school wins a trip to Bloom in the Park for their class plus €500 worth of growing equipment for the school.
Runner up prizes: €400 and €300 GIY voucher.
Household survey by Behaviour & Attitudes Ireland, conducted on behalf of the Sow &
Grow team, found that:
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