Spa N.S.’s Gáirdín na Scoile’ developed as a result of a very simple idea. In June 2011 a group of volunteers began with planting a few drills of potatoes and included the children in harvesting them. This exercise really sparked the interest of the pupils making us realise that although most of the pupils lived in the middle of the countryside few of them had seen where potatoes really come from.
The school community agreed that the development of a school garden would be a hugely positive addition to our school. This shared vision between school management and volunteers and a willingness to work hard ensured that the dream became a reality. We secured permission to work in corner of a field beside the school play-ground for the project and without delay Spa NS organic garden began on a south-facing slope overlooking Tralee Bay.
We secured support from the school B.O.M., the parents’ association and later through grants from North and East Kerry Development, Local Agenda 21 and the Heritage-in Schools programme. Garden design was arranged by Gortbrack Organic Farm through the Heritage-in Schools programme. Then the real hard work began with a big team of numerous volunteers including the school principal, Peter Linehan, school caretaker Pat Cotter, teaching staff, parents and students the garden was measured, fenced off with posts and sheep wire fencing, raised beds were built, seaweed was drawn from Fenit beach and by February 2012 the gardening movement was well underway in Spa National School.
Today, the garden has; 8 raised vegetable beds planted annually with a recorded crop rotation; perennial fruit & herb beds; a polytunnel with raised beds, teaching area and a direct water connection; a bug hotel; compost bays including a rough heap, kitchen compost from the school, a wormery, a hot pig system and leaf-mould compost. The most recent addition to the garden is a living willow dome and tunnel which the children class created with guidance from Gortbrack Organic Farm. The school garden volunteers and students also developed and maintain the garden flower beds and window boxes.
Without the vision and willingness of a core group of people, including the school principal, staff, parents, students and neighbours, all of whom spent many hours at garden club meetings to make this project work, the organic school garden at Spa NS would not exist and full credit should go to them for showing an outstanding example to our children of how to be more independent, self-sufficient and visionary in a way that is sustainable and all encompassing.
Our ‘Gáirdín na Scoile’ is a wonderful place for our students to visit and enjoy. It is an outdoor classroom and a hive of activity. It is a tool to teach our children a life skill, how to produce their own food, how to save their own seeds, how to understand and respect the natural environment around them, to be aware of our bio-diversity and its importance in everyday life and how to do this by following simple organic principles, health, ecology, fairness and care.