‘The Children’s Garden’ provides a useful resource for any teacher keen to maximise the potential of a school garden for the purposes of enjoyment and creativity. The handbook is organised into sections based on the seasons. In Spring, one of the most fun and creative ideas is the construction of a ‘wall of sound and water’; an old wooden pallet is revitalised with the addition of old hosepipe, pots and pans, and watering cans attached in the various positions on axes so that small hands are able to turn the objects and make water flow from the top to the bottom of the ‘wall’ – a simple idea, but one which encompasses both learning about recycling, and also the science of how gravity affects the flow of water. In the Summer chapter, the educational benefits of keeping chickens are discussed – perhaps chickens could be a fun addition to a school garden, teaching both responsibility for animals around us and in our care, and more about the origins of food.
In ‘Autumn’ classic season activities such as blackberry picking and accompanying recipes, and treasure hunting in the woods are covered, while in the section on winter, Appleby suggests, growing plants from leftover vegetables can be fun and instructive, and he details different ways of constructing bird feeders for children. Overall, this book has plenty of content for a teacher or parent new to the idea of outdoor play and learning with children. It is perhaps thin on depth and detail in places (often an idea is presented for an activity or end product without any instructions or recipe), and the pages are a little overcrowded – often the many photographs do not directly correspond with the text around them. If you already have books on gardening and playing outdoors with children, this is may not add anything new to your knowledge base, but as a place to start it’s not bad at all!
The Children’s Garden Matthew Appleby; ISBN 978-0-7112-3633-2; Frances Lincoln