On 1st May 2014, Linwood High School in Renfrewshire, Scotland opened The Craig Hepburn Memorial Garden and Outdoor Learning Centre; a garden to commemorate the life of the former pupil who was tragically murdered in 2012 and provide a place for learning and discovery.
Linwood is a small town three miles from Glasgow Airport and surrounded by beautiful countryside, but it is also on the Scottish index of multiple deprivation. The school could see its pupils were experiencing a disconnect with nature and the natural world and as a result, had no interest in it. After three years of serious planning and hard work, the 170ft x 80ft garden was born from the school's efforts to tip the balance and build horticulture into everyday academic life.
Art teacher and school garden leader, Lesley Hinde, said: “We think creating a garden is the most positive thing you can do as an individual or, as we did, a community. All of our pupils were involved in the creation of this garden, as well as half a dozen staff, many local businesses, Mr. and Mrs. Hepburn and RHS Development Officer for Scotland, Angela Smith. We were trying to build character into all that we did. Whether it was optimism, curiosity, gratitude, zest, grit or self-control, literally we had it in bucket loads.”
The garden is designed in such a way that three classes can use the garden for learning at the same time, and that’s not including pupils using it for practical gardening.
The huge, vibrant garden boasts an outdoor classroom which holds 33 pupils, eight central raised beds with built-in seating for 50 pupils, a large presentation area, a memorial plum tree planted by Craig’s parents, a memorial bench, several bug hotels, bird and hedgehog boxes, bird feeders and two ponds.
On top of practical gardening skills, the garden is used to teach a number of curriculum subjects. Drawing classes are run for Art lessons, perspective drawing in Design and Technology, Science pupils have been making fertiliser and Maths is taught in the outdoor classroom. Two year groups are also being taught horticulture as part of a Personal Achievement Award, accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).
"There is so much the garden has done for our pupils”, said Lesley. “They have become better critical thinkers and have more transferable skills, whether it is teamwork, communicating ideas or problem solving. They are more knowledgeable about plants, flowers, trees, birds, animals and biodiversity and they understand how to grow their own produce in an organic garden. They have more of a connection with their environment and can make a more informed choice about their diet and what they eat.”
As well as using the garden within the school, the pupils are involved in several community projects and 2015 will be their second year of helping the Linwood Community Development Trust with this year’s Linwood in Bloom. The school is also building more raised beds around the playground for families in the community to grow their own produce and has many plans to hold future events to raise funds for the garden.