By  Julie Parkin (Schools Education Tutor) and Cath Evans (RBGE Education Officer)

Digging for Victory (Photo credit: Brenda White)

Our new Schools Programmes are settling in well in the Cottage and we held our first Dig for Victory Week from 6th – 9th March 2017 where P6-7 classes from various schools came to the Botanics to join our Home Front for the day.

The Home Front during World War 2 is a popular project in upper primary classes, focusing on evacuation, air-raids and rationing, with teachers always looking for ways to make it relevant, fun and active for the children. Schools can readily access books, pictures and DVDs, but the RBGE Dig for Victory programme links with real gardeners from the past and gives the children chance to wear the clothes, sing the songs and do the same gardening activities as shown in the old instructional Pathé films and leaflets issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. This hands-on learning is motivating and can build confidence and relationships, bringing success to the children who do not achieve so easily in the classroom. Our session also includes some local history using old photos of the allotments on Inverleith House Lawn and of a Land Girl who was the mother of a member of staff at RBGE.

Setting the scene in the Cottage (Photo credit: Brenda White)

The facilities in the Botanic Cottage and the adult support from tutors and volunteers give confidence to teachers who don’t have prior gardening knowledge. Some of the pupils have never seen the Botanics before and are unfamiliar with the range of vegetables in the Demonstration Garden. The ‘Vital Vegetable’ trail widens their knowledge about seasonal produce and contributes to the health and well-being focus in all schools.  

Feedback from teachers has been positive in that the session complements what the children are learning in school and the children really enjoyed being taught how to dig. They gained a real sense of the differences in the modern and wartime diets when there was little choice – you had to grow and eat your own veg to have fresh food on the table and stay to healthy. The programme also has a relevant message for present times after the shortages of Iceberg lettuce, spinach and courgettes following bad winter weather in Spain. Learning how to grow our own is just as important a skill as it was back then. 

We’d like to thank volunteers who help run our school programmes in the Cottage and spend hours making props, preparing the plots and sharing their enthusiasm about gardening with the children who visit.