The outdoor environment is a rich, dynamic and natural space for learning and development in children of all ages. Its value as an essential learning resource has been recognised by many pieces of research and more recently within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), particularly within the principle of ‘Enabling Environments’.
We already had a fantastic outside space with a large wooden train for riding and climbing on, slide and climbing frame, “the mound”, a football net, sand tray and so much more for the children to enjoy. Last year we spent some of our funds on improving the main part of the garden by building a mud kitchen and painting murals on the fence.
However, for some time we have been working to improve the area to the side of our setting by turning it into an interactive gardening and wildlife area – giving the children an opportunity to get hands on with nature, gain an interest in gardening and explore plants, smells, sounds and sights and generally enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately our application to for Lottery funding was turned down, and with no extra funds to pay for it, our Garden Project seemed back to square one.
Having decided that we needed to avoid another lengthy application process, we decided that crowd sourcing was the way to go and so started to look for donations of unwanted garden items. Parents, grandparents and local businesses kindly donated scaffolding boards to build planters, topsoil, railway sleepers, roof tiles, logs, stepping stones, plants, shrubs, bird feeders, a water butt, paint and gravel. Using ideas from Pinterest and a visit to Ely nursery Harlequins, Setting Manager Zoe Corley and Committee Member Lucy Thorne designed the garden. Then over a weekend in October around 20 parents, along with grandparents, members of staff and the Management Committee, gave up their time to build it.
For a grand total of £38 we now have our sensory garden! There are five planters containing plants corresponding to each of the five senses, together with a Bug Mansion that the children helped build and bird feeders. There is also a compost bin and water butt to show the children the value of recycling and reusing. The children have loved exploring and planting in their new garden since its grand unveiling on Monday 20th October 2014.
Even though the garden is finished, work still continues. Fundraising is now needed to buy the children the tools so they can use their garden, such as watering cans, tools for gardening and bug hunting and maybe even a shed!
Thank you to all parents and grandparents who were involved in our Garden Project – without your donations, time and energy none of it would have been possible!
Special thanks to:
Franco from FDS Bulk Haul for 2 tons of topsoil, railway sleepers and rocks
Staff at Amey Cespa for the stepping stones
Pete from B&Q for finding all the discounted plants and compost
Mike Randall from Ridgeons for the water butt