Young children with green fingers are usually the sign the paints have come out in reception, but for this group of children, it’s digging into fun at the allotment that has given them green fingers. The excited youngsters from St Mary Magdalen Catholic Primary School in Seaham were given the chance to water plants, look for worms and learn about growing vegetables at a new community allotment at St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland.

The venture between the two schools, which are both part of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust, is part of St Aidan’s drive to be more sustainable.

The allotment is thriving with two large polytunnels containing potatoes, peas, spring onions, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, pak choi, tomatoes, chilli, peppers, French beans and rocket. There are also six raised beds outside with onions, garlic and broad beans growing, and 15 flowerbeds.

St Aidan’s Catholic Academy RE teacher Anna Armstrong said: “The allotment was set up in March 2022 to work towards the St Aidan’s three sustainable development goals, which are action on climate change, good health and wellbeing, and reduce hunger. Additionally, we want to work with the local community to create a safe, post-Covid space for all members of our community to enjoy. We want to build cross-generational relationships by working with local nurseries, primary schools and care homes, and support those in need by distributing produce grown on site. Special thanks must go to our lovely volunteer, Lynne Reay, who is the grandmother of one of our pupils, whose help has been invaluable.

Now the allotment is thriving, Mrs Armstrong and the wellbeing team she leads, have started hosting community events.

The afternoon with St Mary Magdalen was brilliant,” she added. “Everyone had fun and, most importantly, everyone played their part in making a difference. We have also had visits from a local nursery and the wellbeing group led all the activities. The children loved tricking the worms to come out from underground by doing the bird dance.

As part of the recent community visits, 20 reception pupils from St Mary Magdalen Catholic Primary School visited St Aidan’s Catholic Academy to engage in a range of gardening activities including a tour of the polytunnels where the youngsters learnt about what was growing and had a turn at watering the vegetables; planting flowers; decorating raised beds with colourful chalk; followed a worm trail searching for fun facts about worms hidden around the garden; and listened to a story, ‘Superworm‘ by Julia Donaldson.

Reception teacher Joanne Robson, from St Mary Magdalen Catholic Primary School, said: “We had such a lovely afternoon. Congratulations to Anna and the boys for a successful event. They were an absolute credit to you.

The allotment has also received visitors from Belle Vue Care Home, with more nursery and school visits in the pipeline. Four residents of the care home and two members of staff joined the pupils, as part of the school’s goal to promote cross-generational relationships.

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