Lunch and Learning 2017: A journey into the extraordinary of the ordinary

At the Skip Garden, nothing really stops. Movement is everywhere. Life is everywhere.

Underneath the soil, in the compost, in the hives, in all the structures,  journeys and stories are happening day and night. But what’s alive is not just creatures. I feel our projects are living too. They carry on breathing and moving even during winter and summer breaks.

We held the last Lunch and Learning session of this academic year on the 19th of July with a whole class from Edith Neville primary school. The kids were new visitors to the garden. This year we had different new schools coming each month and joining our little committed gardeners from Frank Barnes, who came through the seasons and inspired most of the sessions and most of our relationships with the garden and the world around us, relationships that could almost be described as journeys of discovery of what is extraordinary in our ordinary life.

I would say most of the time during a project, I tend to look at what happens right there, waiting for the reactions of the participants, look at the details on the tables, thinking about health and safety aspects, checking timings and being worried that something could not be quite as perfect as I wanted it to be. I am distracted from the perspective of what people can take away. That perspective that I have when I plan a session is the most important aspect. But when we received Rebecca Citroen’s words, teacher at Frank Barnes, about the impact of the Lunch and Learning programme on the students, well then I kind of remembered that what happens during a programme can manifests itself more strongly after, in our daily lives.

The legacy of what we do never really stops and it carries on with the lives of people we have met, it carries on far away from our eyes, sometimes in places we can’t reach, with sounds we can’t hear, with results we can’t see.

After months of good food and learning inspired by indigenous rituals; after the creation of food, artworks, bug hotels, crops; after months of travelling through the lands of the planet, now that lunch and learning is on a break, it makes sense to leave a bit of space to Rebecca’s words, words that are dedicated to the whole garden team but also and especially to all our volunteers who have been coming to the sessions, taking their time and getting stuck in new adventures with us.

We look forward to seeing you back at the garden again in September.

I  know that seeing the children tell you what their favourite experiences have been is priceless, so I will try and communicate at least a little of that now and also add my teaching perspective on how much I appreciate the chance to give my class the opportunity to explore and learn in an environment they may never experience elsewhere.

They are a class of 7 children aged between 7-10, all of whom are Deaf and some have additional needs such as global delay, autism, cerebral palsy, Deaf-blind, language delay and other learning difficulties. Something that has really struck me as a teacher is that all of the staff and volunteers had a wonderful rapport with the children, not relying on interpreters for every bit of communication, but taking an interest in learning the British Sign Language alphabet and signs related to the workshops. It is so much appreciated by me as a teacher to not have to jump in and adapt workshops throughout to tailor them to my children, but instead being able to rely on the child-centred approach taken by every staff member I encountered.

The range of different activities were always practical, hands-on, and stimulated the children’s curiosity. An interpreter I booked for the final session said to me afterwards, “Opportunities like that are so important as it gives children the chance to flourish in an environment that suits them”. It was also commented several times by other adults how well focussed one of my boys is, which I can tell you is not the case in the classroom and he requires Occupational Therapy interventions to be able to attend to a lesson. Another child was noted for her engagement in art-centered activities, her attention to detail and interaction with new people around her. Again, this is a complete contrast to her at school and at home, and it is beautiful to see her thrive due to the opportunities you have presented her with.

In addition to the well thought out plans for every session, they also met a variety of the children’s learning goals and sensory needs potentially without your direct intentions. I am sure you are very aware of the benefits of learning through a sensory environment, but I wanted to express to how fundamental that is to these children. Not only is it specifically in their statement of needs, but it is also the most effective way for a deaf child to learn. Lots of deaf children miss out on a great deal of incidental learning, not being able to take in vast amounts of information in the environment that we take for granted.'

Nothing really stops at the garden or outside. Many special thanks to the Freeman Trust for supporting the programme and to the kids for being our guides into the extraordinary of the ordinary.