1. From school grounds... to school gardens

1. From school grounds... to school gardens

Garden Schools Resource - User Survey 

Before you begin, we'd very much appreciate if you would complete our short user survey to let us know who is using the resource and how they intend using it - this will help us make improvements to the resource. Complete the survey here.

Suggested Timing: August - September

“School grounds – spaces for possibility, both for learning and growing.”

School grounds are a space used by different people for different purposes. When creating a new school garden there are important steps to be taken, and decisions to be made, mainly:

•    Surveying and Measuring
•    Preparing
•    Designing and building

These stages are all worked through as a part of this module. Where a garden space is already available, the focus may simply be on the ‘preparing’ stages (steps 4 and 5 - clearing the ground, and harvesting) and planting.

Useful Resources

•    Setting up a school garden / RHS Campaign for School Gardening
•    How to Set up a School Garden (growveg.co.uk)
•    Steps to a Classroom Garden - Growing Minds (growing-minds.org)

Short Film: From School Grounds... To School Gardens


By the end of this unit, you will enable children to:

  1. Discuss the different uses and purposes of the school grounds
  2. Survey and map the school grounds
  3. Measure spaces for growing
  4. Clear the grounds of existing weeds
  5. Harvest and distribute existing produce
  6. Make and assess designs for the garden

1. Explore the Uses and Purposes of the School Grounds

Children can carry out an initial survey of the school grounds to answer some key questions including:

  • How are the school grounds currently being used, and by whom?
  • Where is the best location for a food garden?
  • How much space is available for growing food?
Activity 1A: Explore and Map Current and Future Design Ideas

In class, the teacher can lead a group discussion with the children about school grounds. A simple questionnaire or a drawing may be used to first find out from children how they like their school grounds, their preferred activities, and what features they would like to change, keep, or see more of.

Activity 1B: Room for Growing

Discussion might focus solely on growing spaces. Questions here might include:

  • Is there an existing garden? If so, what size is it? What can it be used for?
  • If no garden exists, where might one be best sited? Perhaps more than one area looks suitable? Which might be the better site?
Useful Resources

2. Survey the School Grounds

A detailed survey of the school grounds can follow to help inform decisions about the design of the garden, and to ensure plants will be in a spot where they can thrive.

Activity 2A: Designing a Survey

In groups, children can devise a set of questions they would like to answer when observing the grounds. Likely questions and observations include:

  • Which areas are sunny, and which are shady?
  • Which areas are tarmac, and which are soil or another type of covering?
  • Which areas are windy or sheltered?
  • Is the soil quite moist or does it seem dry?
  • What plants are already in place?
  • Do any plants need to be moved or harvested?
  • What materials can be used or re-used?
  • Do any animals visit the garden?
  • Where is access to the garden?
  • Are there any security issues?
  • Where is there access to water?
Activity 2B: Carrying out the Survey

It’s a good idea to do the survey at various times of the day, for example – early morning, midday, and late afternoon – to see how sun/shade changes, amongst other things, over the course of the day. Writing notes and taking photos or drawing sketches can help as useful reminders for later discussion.

Useful Resources

3. Measuring Garden Requirements

As part of the survey and/or once the best site for the garden has been agreed, it’s time to start measuring up.

Activity 3A: Measuring and Mapping in the Playground

Outside, children can map and measure the different areas of the school grounds:

  • Children can map where people play or run to decide on the best space to use for food growing.
  • They can measure how much space is occupied by plants; herbs and flowers; how much sun different areas get over the course of the day; how far the growing space is from the nearest door or water tap.
Activity 3B: Review and Discussion

In class, children can review their drawings and measurements. A discussion can follow: How much space is currently used for playing or exercising? How much space is unused? How much space is occupied by plants of assorted sizes?

Useful Resources

4. Clear the Grounds

Once the location of the garden has been decided children can be involved in preparing the space for installation. The head teacher may need to be consulted if changes to the grounds are required.  What is there on the ground? A collection of weeds, rubbish, and stones may support a discussion about what might be used in the garden and what might be discarded.

Activity 4: Contacting the City Council

Depending on the situation children can help the teacher write a request/recommendation to the city council for the space to be cleared to start a food growing garden.

Useful Resources

5. Harvesting

If the school has a garden already, children can harvest any remaining produce. Veggies, berries, or flowers can be taken back home or used in the school for various purposes: observation and analysis; tasting, cooking, or preserving (see handout ‘From Harvesting to Cooking’).

Activity 5: Harvesting

Harvest any existing produce from the garden and/or pick any wild produce growing near the school and in the school grounds (this might include rowan berries; bramble; herbs etc.).

6. Designing and Building the Garden

Following the initial discussion, surveys and measuring, the children can develop their designs for the garden. These might include containers of assorted sizes and shapes, paths, and other features.

Activity 6A: Exploring Garden Designs

Individually and then in groups, children can draw their preferred garden, including all relevant features (paths; water access; shelter; fencing; signage; types of plants).

Activity 6B: Discussion of Designs

In groups, children can discuss their plans and modify if they wish.

Activity 6C: Communicating with the City Council

All plans should be submitted to the garden coordinator in the school for further discussion with the local council.

Activity 6D: Finalising the Plans

The garden coordinator will visit the class and make some considerations about the different plans. In class, a discussion should follow on the feasibility of the suggestions, then a final plan drawn up and shown to pupils.

Useful Resources

You have reached the end of this unit. To assess your knowledge before starting the next unit, please complete the short quiz found at the link below.

Please note: you will have to enter your email address at the start of each unit quiz if you wish to be sent a Garden Schools Certificate of Completion once you have worked through all 8 units and quizzes.

Complete the From School Grounds… To School Gardens short quiz