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Time for a gardening rebrand

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 01 Oct 2013 at 02:48 PM

Brampton collage
"You realise you're just wearing a babygrow, don't you?", I challenged my 10-year-old the other day.

"It's not a babygrow, it's a onesie."

"It's a babygro. A footless, overpriced babygro I grant you but it's still a babygrow. I should know, I used to put you in one every day. You know when you were a baby."

"It's a onesie. All my friends have them. It is a onesie OK? And I love it."

There's a long pause.

"It's a babygrow", I mutter

"I'm not talking to you any more Mummy."

Yes my eldest two children have both fallen for the trend of wearing so-called onesies. My youngest is desperate to join them but, being small for this age, we are finding it hard to locate one in his size without it actually being sold as... well a babygrow.

For all my frustration I have to admire the marketing genius of this fashion - it shows the immense power of a name change. And I'm beginning to think gardening could do with the same if it wants to attract the onesie crowd.

The word 'gardening' is rife with associations that are never going to chime well with a younger audience. It conjures up images of well worn cords, string deployed where belts should sit, grey-haired old men with oversized turnips, double-digging, old newspapers, creaking joints and the smell of cabbages. It does not say fresh, fun or fashionable. At all.

It also comes burdened with a very narrow definition - 'growing and cultivating plants in a garden'. Yet those of use who 'garden' know it involves so much more. It's about creating, cultivating and sustaining beautiful environments, understanding and appreciating the natural world, recognising, encouraging and managing the effects of wildlife - and, and for those under 10 - being outside, getting filthy and having fun.

This was brought home to me the other day when I was having a tour of a local school. Brampton Village Primary School set up their first garden back in 2007. It was a relatively traditional vegetable garden which is no bad thing - growing, harvesting and tasting produce is incredibly powerful for children and can teach them the important basics of horticulture. And yes it helps that each class has their own area to plan, maintain and harvest, especially as many are right outside the classrooms making it easier for the children to get out regularly.

But, in Marks & Spencer parlance, this is not just a school garden, this is environmental award-winning, RHS Level 5 School Garden, which means that this is only part of a much bigger commitment to gardening and the importance of the outdoors.

Learning outside the classroom is something that's become a key feature in pre-schools and nurseries but often gets left behind when children enter primary and particularly secondary school. I understand why. Most planning and resources assume classroom-based teaching and it takes a change in mindset and a willingness to rethink lessons plans if you want to go outdoors.

But it is possible.

Whilst I was walking around I saw an entire class staging a debate in the outdoor pavilion in the garden over whether Lysander should be allowed to marry Hermia. Midsummer Night's Dream studied amongst the flowers and wildlife seemed a perfect example of the outdoors enhancing curriculum learning.

But it's not just literacy - maths, science, design and technology - any subject can be bought to life by a well-planned lesson making use of the outdoors.

Brampton has also begun to take on some of the ideas of Forest Schools. This is a movement begun in Sweden in the 1950s which champions the benefits for children of playing and learning outdoors.

At Brampton they make sure each child has a minimum of one hour a week doing forest schools pursuits - whatever the weather. They often begin with building and sitting around campfires before undertaking activities on the school grounds such as den building, making outdoor instruments, pond dipping, or willow weaving. Admittedly the school is lucky in that they have their own spinney on site but many school grounds offer more opportunities than it might first appear and there is always the option of using local woodland and parks.

There are also 'dropped curriculum days' where time is made for the school to go outside and learn about new topics, or join in activities together.  These are often run by outside bodies such as the Environment Agency or The Wildlife Trusts and can involve anything from dissecting owl pellets, looking at invasive species to building bug and bird boxes.

None of this is what we would necessarily call 'gardening' but it is all part of what gardening should be about - and how it will appeal to a younger audience.

We just need a new word.

How about Outsies?

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