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Three girls and a teacher, wrapped up warm and wearing gardening gloves are planting up a new raised bed Three girls and a teacher, wrapped up warm and wearing gardening gloves are planting up a new raised bed

A story of becoming Incredible from Greystones Educate Together National School

By Sara Venn

We were thrilled to get this email from Yanns at GETNSIncredible Edible in the Republic of Ireland. It’s a long read but we have published in full as it’s a brilliant resource  telling the story of a new group and how it has become a part of the community!

 

– First we found our name: GETNS Incredible Edible (GETNS=Greystones Educate Together National School).

– I spent some time lobbying for founds. I secured some money from our Board of Management and from our Parent Association Committee. I also secure a couple of class seeds packs from an Irish school incentive sponsored by innocent smoothie. The founds have been allocated to the purchase of the seeds for our first crops and compost for the planting boxes and the sowing of our crops and the purchase of a set of proper kids hand tools that will allow a whole class (about 30 pupils) to go out to work in the garden at the same time. I am currently trying to secure extra funding from our local Tidy Town Committee and Irish incentives for school gardens either private or public.

– I have been working closely with the new school Principal to insure that she takes a central role in the decision process in our project and that she sees the importance of her role in communicating about the Incredible Edible and motivate her staff about our project on the long term.

– I also, join the Parent Association Committee so that I can be in a good position to liaise between the parents, the school and the project in this first year. This has allowed me to feel real interest in the project from the parent association and get full support from the P.A.C.

– I build close ties with the school Green School Committee. It is a school body made of 3 teachers and 2 reps (1 female, 1 male) from each class in the school. They are in charge of looking after the green areas on the grounds of the school, including the school garden. This year I have a real feeling that the teachers in charge are very motivated and going out of their way to get things done for the kids. It is for me the best channel of communication I have to pass on the message about the IE and the importance of our project for the school and the kids. We work very well together and they have been great help to get everything ready so that we are ready to go out and get things growing! I empowered them with all the knowledge about the project so that they can «  infuse » the message and motivate everyone from within. They are in charge of all the documents for the teachers and the kids. They are also responsible for the maintenance of the tools for the kids. I spent a long time with them discussing all what I researched about the Incredible Edible since I first heard about it 4  years ago. I tried my best to pass my ideas for the project. I answered all there questions and assured them that I will make myself available to all teachers that wants help when they will go out to sow or plant crops in the garden. The committee is also going to be looking after our seed bank. I created the “germ” of it and gave it to them with instructions so they just have to follow on and expand it.

Next week the G.S.C is going to distribute an envelop to each class with their seeds for the spring and the instructions to plant them or not. I made it voluntary as I do not want to alienate the teachers against me. They have the right not agree with the project and refuse to participate. Still they have to think about their pupils. That is the message that I gave them in each envelopes too.

– To make sure all the various groups of people know what is their role, what to do, the aim, the goals, the talks, the contacts, etc I produced several documents to keep everyone on the same page. The first one is a handbook. To me it is the most important document. It regroups everything that anyone needs to know about the history of the Incredible Edible, the movement and its philosophy, our project its aim, its goals, tasks, who does what, plans for the garden, info on permaculture and gardening, templates, contacts. Its has been printed and distributed to the Board of Management, the Principal, the Green School Committee, the Garden Committee, the teachers room, the Parent Association Committee. A digital version of the same has been emailed to all the participant in the project. It is going to be very helpful for the teachers to allow them to integrate the IE project into their school year program from day one.

Then, I made a package for the teachers only with a yearly crop calendar and a yearly tasks list. The crop calendar is a colour coded year calendar where I placed about 50 crops that are easily grown in Irish gardens according to a cropping calendar that takes into account the school year as well as the seasons and the best time to plant each crop. I also give them simple tips on what to do to start each crop.Then the task list is there to encourage communication between teachers and avoid doubling on recurrent tasks that need to be done in the garden. With this document each teacher can write down what task they pick on the list of recurrent tasks to do with their class and leave a trace for the others so then know who has done or is going to do what. Again this is to help the teachers to integrate the project into their school year from day one.

– My « Chief » builder Brian has also been busy over the winter building planting boxes out of pallets. He has almost reach our goals for this year. He is also working at building some boxes for the Green School Committee so they can store their tools and carry them out safely and easily. We have to work together on few signs to put around to garden.

– I have organised with one of our teacher Tom 5th class (my daughter is in his class 😊) to create a large wild flower area. It is going to become the first step of our IE path. Step two being our permaculture area and step 3 our school garden. Step 4 might be our “willow dome” when it is finished but I have to see how it is going to turn out. We have organised to sow on a poorly looking area just outside the school grounds to sow a native wild flower area and to protect it afterwards as a native wild flower reserve. To do so the kids are going to make seed bombs in the class and the Garden Committee and its volunteers are going to prepare the ground before hand to ensure that the kids project works as best as possible. Then the kids will plant a IE branded sign with their class year on it . This is going to protect a quite large area of nature that we would not be able to plant with crops because of pollution from traffic anyway. It was the best solution for this spot. This will happen the first week of April. I will send you some pictures.

– Myself and Sarah another permanent volunteer on the project are taking part on a 10hrs course on community gardening and biodiversity. I hope it will give some insight on how things work with local authorities, Tidy Town committees, waste management, gardening in general, biodiversity in an urban environment, public fundings for community garden projects, etc. It should help us with the project on the long run, especially me who is not Irish and has a lot to learn about the system.

– The Garden Committee and its three members have made several interventions in the classes over the autumn and winter to discuss about various  issues on biodiversity, building bird feeders with kids or planting pear cores to see if the kids can grow pear trees for the school garden that way.

– I will be planting several extra fruit shrubs (gooseberries, blackcurrant, raspberries), that I made from cuttings from my own, to the ones I have already planted into our school garden in the next few days. This will almost complete our 100 yards fruit shrubs hedge.

– We have an artist that has her kids in our school that is going to make us a variation on the IE logo, respecting the rules of the Network on the logo that I communicated her, with a class that is going to be placed on one of our planting box in front of our school under the school name right beside the gate. Then will plant a mix of herbs, food crops and flowers in this box. It should be unveiled on our IE day on the 6 or 7th of April 2020.

– Everything we build is made from recycled material, things that we give a second life to or reused stuff. All the shrubs that we planted so far have been grown from cuttings collected or given to me. Bulbs have been shared or collected in wild dumping areas. We want to show the kids that there are other options than throw out and buy a new one.

So, this is how far I got, we got, they got. We are up an running I think. Mother Nature just has to give us the go ahead with a little sign when spring is upon us. I have to say it is a bit the scariest time. All the thinking is done, now everything can go right or wrong and there isn’t much that can be done. Nature is nature. People are people. We can only do our best!