Plot to Plate
Quite simply, it is our intention that every pupil, irrelevant of needs, develops a real passion and understanding of our plot to plate ethos through active, hands on experience. We wish for every pupil to sow, tend, harvest, cook and eat crops from our school garden and develop an understanding of the importance of positive food culture and a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, we aspire for the skills and knowledge learnt by the pupils in school to become lifelong and embedded in their everyday lives. Through our ‘Plot to Plate’ education we aim to support this philosophy by:
- Fostering the enjoyment that taking part in cooking, eating and gardening activities can bring;
- Enabling children to develop and explore cooking and gardening skills;
- Teaching children how to make healthy lifestyle choices;
- Developing children’s understanding of the environmental impact of food (seasonality, food miles and food wastage);
- Showing children how to care for and nurture living things;
- Developing resilience through failure and challenge;
- Sharing our skills with others and learning from each other (Head Gardeners);
- Teaching cookery and gardening skills through the Wheel of Wisdom;
- Encouraging pupils to develop a knowledge and respect for Suffolk’s farming heritage;
- Encouraging pupils’ personal involvement with practical tasks enabling them to improve their attention span, persistence and commitment.
- Providing exciting ‘real life contexts,’ for learning such as the Y6 egg production micro-business, in preparedness for life in modern Britain.
- Ensuring that the learning is matched to the differing needs of all the children as well as specific groups, such as SEND, pupil premium etc. Extra support and additional/ adapted resources to be provided to those children where it is required.
At Birchwood we know that children learn best when the curriculum is well sequenced to enable revisiting of core knowledge, skills and understanding to deepen conceptual awareness before demanding application across the whole curriculum. Please see the cookery and gardening Progression of Skills documents (held in school), which outline how the key skills are developed, revisited, assessed and built upon during Reception to Year 6. See Food for Life Policy for additional cooking and nutrition progression.
All classes participate in cookery and gardening activities throughout the year.
During the school year, Years 1 – 6 each take part in a day long cookery masterclass run by Caterlink our school catering provider. The masterclasses focus on teaching the children new skills and knowledge and cover a range of themes such as bread, spices and under the sea! During these bespoke sessions led by a professional development chef the children have made chutneys, slaws, smoothies and seafood cocktails each time combining the teaching of new food/ingredient knowledge with cookery skills. The pupils also have a Wheel of Wisdom based cookery unit which focuses on teaching a clear progression of skills within their class topic. During the year each class also prepares a class bake and completes a jam jar challenge ready to sell at our annual Farmers’ Market. Keeping in line with recommendations within the Art and Design National Curriculum the majority of cookery is savoury. In the Reception class opportunities to bake are linked to topic work (Gruffalo crumble, easy cheesy dinosaur biscuits, Infiorata pizza) and providing healthy snack opportunities (making bread, fruit/veg kebabs, flapjacks).
Each class has their own class bed in the garden. The planting plan is carefully linked to a clear progression of skills for example Reception sow and grow runner beans whereas Year 6 sow and grow leeks which have much smaller seeds and require advanced skills such as pricking and thinning out. Every class takes part in our annual potato growing competition which begins with chitting in February. Much care has to be taken with earthing up and the accurate measuring of rainfall helps classes to decide how much watering is needed. Gardening masterclasses are run for each class during which the plot to plate philosophy is shared for the classes chosen crop – for example the Year 2 class are growing garlic so they tasted garlic bread, looked carefully at the bulb and cloves before learning planting and growing tips prior to going out and each planting their own clove in the Year 2 class bed. The masterclasses are tailored to each classes crop and cover seed through to eating! Each class has 2 Head Gardeners who attend the extra-curricular Garden Gang – their acquisition of gardening skills is shared with the whole school through special assemblies and class gardening time. The Head Gardeners carry out a broad range of gardening jobs and enjoy choosing crops linked to personal preference and interest. Gardening is shared with the local community through our Community Herb Garden, Community Allotments and grandparent Gardening Day.
Our biannual ‘home grown’ challenge invites children to show case their gardening and cookery skills at home by taking home a seed and then sowing, growing and cooking it at home (tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes).
Each Year group has a link and educational visit associated to food and farming. Whether this be visiting a local farm, supporting Tractors in School Day, going to Suffolk Agricultural Association’s Farm Fair or meeting the Suffolk Septuplet! Birchwood works closely with the Suffolk Horse Society, regularly visiting breeders and owners and learning about our perhaps most treasured and endangered member of the Suffolk Trinity. Through these links our pupils learn to not only respect and value their farming heritage but also where food comes from. The Birchwood Flock is a micro-business run exclusively by Year six pupils and the ‘Chicken Monitors,’ therein. The Chicken Monitors have carefully selected ‘Heritage Breeds,’ to protect and preserve rare breeds such as our own Suffolk Ixworth large fowl and our Suffolk Chequered Bantams. We have twenty-five hens in total who are reared organically and sustainably, having their own substantial woodland habitat they Free Range in. The children proudly show their rare Suffolk breeds at our annual Suffolk Day event, alongside county and national champions of other Suffolk rare breeds eg – the Suffolk Punch Horse, Red Poll Cattle and the Suffolk Sheep.
There are literally hundreds of ways we can demonstrate the excellent impact our curriculum design has on our pupils and indeed we were the proud winners of Suffolk’s Greenest County Greenest School award again in 2019 and runners up in their Food and Drink category in which we competed not with other schools but local food and drink businesses. In a nutshell, here are some examples:
1 -the impact of our Y6 micro business with the Birchwood Poultry Flock – Our Y6 chicken monitors were so inspired by the Y6 project, that for their Birthday’s and Christmas’, they wanted their own rare Suffolk Chicken breeds and now both Y7 children, proudly own their own flocks. Birchwood is one of only 2 school DEFRA approved egg production units in the UK! The children record daily egg production, label and market the eggs, produce weekly spreadsheets on profit v outgoings, order food and materials and care for the flock. This gives them first hand business ‘life experience,’ before transferring to Secondary school.
2-the impact of our gardening projects – 3 of our ex Head Gardeners have persuaded their families to take up one of our 4 allotments made available to local families whose gardens did not include a vegetable patch. The 3 families now tend their own allotments driven by the children’s passion and empowered by their new found skills and knowledge – educating their parents along the way!
Food for Life Accolades
Gold Food for Life award ~ winners
Suffolk Greenest County - Food and Drink award ~ runners up July 2019
Suffolk Greenest County - Greenest School award ~ winners July 2019