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Creating a love for learning through additional curriculum enrichment.

Hello, my name is Joy Mitchell and I work with the children in the garden at Dovecote. I love gardening and anything related to gardening – visiting gardens, reading about gardens, watching programmes about gardens! When I am not gardening, I like to sew (sewing in the garden would be my perfect day). I also enjoy walking, reading, and cooking. As well as working at Dovecote, I look after the roof terrace for a restaurant in Nottingham and grow food in the greenhouse for the restaurant kitchen to use. I have 2 grown-up children and a cat called Mickey.  

I became a gardener relatively late in life (aged 42), when I gave up a full-time job managing a Sure Start centre to go to university and study horticulture. I specialised in ‘social and therapeutic horticulture. I believe that gardening is a powerful and enjoyable way to improve mental and physical health and can be accessed by anyone. I love working at Dovecote school and seeing the next generation of gardeners learning the importance of connecting with nature.

Gardening at Dovecote

We are very lucky to have a safe, enclosed area for gardening at Dovecote. It’s known as “The secret garden”, which the children find funny because they say it’s not a secret at all because it can be seen from corridors, classrooms and offices! Mrs Mitchell, who is a specialist in “social and therapeutic gardening”, works with groups of children in the secret garden, twice a week, year-round. The children engage in all aspects of gardening. Here are just some examples:

  • Digging and raking the soil to prepare for planting
  • Weeding
  • Watering
  • Sowing seeds in pots and in the ground
  • Planting bulbs (edible ones like onions and flowers such as daffodils and tulips)
  • Harvesting – this includes fruit such as apples, pears, raspberries and strawberries, digging up vegetables and cutting salad leaves.
  • Creating and maintaining wildlife habitats.

These are just some of the ways that are used to develop a love and understanding of the environment. Our gardening sessions help to build children’s confidence -many children who find the classroom a challenging environment thrive outdoors doing practical tasks which in turn help them to really understand how to work well in a team. The garden is often used by class teachers for things like treasure hunts, wildlife spotting activities or mindfulness sessions, which all take place in the beautiful, calm garden space.

It is believed that the benefits of school gardening are:

  • Improving physical and mental well-being
  • Building life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication
  • Enriches the entire curriculum from science, maths and geography to art, design and language
  • Encourages a better/healthier lifestyle
  • Develops a better understanding about the environment and sustainability
  • Helps young people engage with their surroundings better and develop a sense of responsibility

Of course, there is lots of lovely produce at the end of all the learning and as much as possible is eaten by the children – they enjoy tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, grapes and peas straight from the plant. During taster sessions, children try soups or salads, and food also goes to the school kitchen - apple crumble is a big favourite and everyone loves the first new potatoes.

Our children are very lucky to have our “secret garden”, and we hope to learn from what we see and do there every day.

Please see our Dovecote Facebook page, which show all the exciting learning that takes place in our Secret Garden.