Portsmouth school garden is among top 10 in the world

In her new book, Schools that Heal, author Professor Claire Latane scoured the globe for examples of schools that use gardens as a resource for young people – and she chose the garden at Redwood Park Academy in Wembley Grove, Cosham, as a world-leading example

Claire, a landscape architecture professor at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, said: ‘I was looking for a range of schools that teachers could look to emulate and Redwood is a beautiful example of a low-cost and student-centred garden that teacher Ed Bond and the students have developed. Just seeing how an idea can start in a relatively small area and then develop as the impact of the garden is experienced by the whole school community and it becomes a place where people can relax and learn, is truly inspirational.’

Gardening teacher Ed was delighted the Redwood Park Academy garden has been included.

A former winner of the BBC programme The Big Allotment Challenge, Ed has been teaching gardening at the school for 10 years.

The cultivated green space that now is home to egg-laying hens, a giant pizza oven, fruit bushes, flowers and a polytunnel, has steadily grown over the years and Ed and the green-fingered pupils have more plans for further allotment spaces.

‘We have developed the space over the past five or six years and it has all been built by the students. It is a living classroom where pupils can relax and learn more about the food we eat and how it grows,’ he said.

As schools come to terms with the legacy of the Covid pandemic, Professor Latane believes cultivating gardens for students to enjoy will become even more important for all schools to adopt.

‘As we come back from the pandemic, it will be really important to have quiet environments in schools. Redwood Park Academy’s garden is a good model for others to follow and shows what can be achieved by students. It doesn’t have to be pristine and the way Ed has managed to create a garden mainly from found materials and items that would have ended up in landfill, is really wonderful,’ she said.

As well as growing cucumber for the hens to enjoy as a treat and soft fruits for the pupils to sample, the produce that comes from the garden is part of a virtuous circle as pumpkins and squashes grown by the youngsters are made into soups and stews for a homeless project in Southsea.

Redwood Park Academy has 154 pupils aged from 11 to 16 and it focuses on outdoor learning and the arts.

Principal Luci Johnson, said: ‘We are really proud to have featured in Claire’s book. Our garden is a positive place for all the pupils to enjoy.’

Other schools in the book include Eagle Rock elementary (in Los Angeles, Kesennuma Siritsu Omose Primary in Japan, Sandy Hook in Connecticut, and B. Travel Community School in Berlin.