In primary schools in Tasmania and the UK, recycled bottle greenhouses are helping students learn lessons about sustainability and how to grow fruit and vegetables.
B CHRISTINE BROWN-PAUL
In Launceston Tasmania, students at Youngtown Primary School are learning the finer points of sustainability through an innovative program where greenhouses made of recycled plastic bottles are installed in school grounds. Other local schools have also taken up the idea, including Glen Dhu Primary, Riverside Primary and Invermay Primary. The greenhouses are made in job-active provider My Pathway, a Work for the Dole project in collaboration with Community Enterprises Australia (CEA).
The structures are offered to schools as a flat pack to help teach students about sustainability and recycling.
Participants of the My Pathway program are taught woodworking and other skills needed to construct the hothouses. The program has been an unqualified success, with some participants staying on after completing their work for the dole.
Principal of Youngtown Primary, Troy Roberts said the project is in line with the goals of the school.
“At Youngtown Primary School, learning is our core purpose and our foremost passion. Our school is widely acknowledged in Tasmanian and Australian education communities as an outstanding learning place for young people. This reflects an outstanding team of teachers and support staff and a community that genuinely commits to our school vision and our school-wide expectations,” Mr Roberts said.
“Our mission is to inspire our children to be the very best they can be, and to prepare them with the skills, understandings and personal attributes to thrive in their lives today and into an ever-changing future.
“These greenhouses are not only a direct benefit for the school vegetable garden but they also have very real educational opportunities for students when discussing what are global issues around waste, recycling, repurposing and growing your own food,” Mr Roberts said.
“As a school community we would like to contribute to this project by making a donation of PET bottles collected by our school families, which will then be used to make the next greenhouse.”
Made from around 6,000 plastic bottles, the greenhouse is Youngtown Primary’s latest addition to a thriving outdoor classroom that teaches students a range of skills from horticulture to cooking. Formerly a neglected space full of tangled blackberries, the area has been transformed into a productive garden, tended by the school’s students.
Youngtown Primary outdoor classroom teacher Brad Colson said the garden aims to be entirely self-sufficient and the greenhouse takes them a step closer to that goal.
“It’s pretty much a self-sufficient garden, in that what we grow we keep replanting,” he said.
The greenhouse allows them to propagate their own seeds earlier in the year, meaning they won’t have to buy seedlings.
“It certainly increases our growing season, particularly with the frosts and stuff through winter we can start getting stuff up,” Mr Colson said.
Students learn all aspects of maintaining the garden, as well as harvesting and using the produce to cook with.
The move to outdoor learning is a global trend, with research showing improved learning outcomes in children that spend time outside.
An Early Learning Australia paper said, “Outdoor learning environments that promote children’s connections with nature and sustainability are engaging spaces for children and educators.”
There are physical, cognitive and psychological benefits to outdoor classrooms and also help develop skills like problem solving and improved social interaction.
UK students also create a bottle greenhouse
In Suffolk, UK, students from Laxfield Primary School children have also made a greenhouse out of recycled bottles.
Produce from the school’s garden was recently served to parents and invited guests as part of a popular food and drink festival. As part of Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, staff and pupils from Laxfield Primary School served pumpkin soup, vegetable curry and apple crumble under a specially constructed marquee on the playing fields.
Under the school’s ‘food for life’ program, pupils are encouraged to understand how food is grown and how a combination of good nutrition and physical activity contributes to a healthier life.
The school has developed its own unique vegetable gardens and pupils have helped build the only greenhouse in the county built entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Each child has their own space in the garden and they design their own planting schemes and then plant their chosen vegetables.
Riley Chapman, a pupil in year five, said: “It has been great creating the garden. It’s so fun to do and I have grown my own vegetables.”
The greenhouse is used to grow various varieties of tomatoes, chillies and peppers, as well as propagating plants for children to grow in their own gardens.
Lucy Hammond, head of school, said: “Building the greenhouse was a real team effort.
“The parents collected hundreds of bottles for the school to build it. It was a fantastic recycling exercise for the children. Ω
November 2016 / Issue 173