Teaching the children business skills through growing fruit and vegetables.

This week definitely feels like spring is in the air and my attention is moving away from animals and the bus, to growing vegetables!

This is the first time I have attempted such a project and I’m not sure where or how to start! My dad will happily tell you that I do not have a green thumb and yet here I am, wanting to teach children to be proficient growers! I’m stepping out of my comfort zone for several reasons. Firstly, I feel it’s an important life skill to be able to grow your own crops, but there is a more important reason. We are turning it into a business!

The children are creating a ‘business’ and the end goal is to turn a profit from growing fruit and vegetables. The plan is for the children to have real jobs; from CEO, marketing, finance to ‘head of plants’. They will learn what is expected for their role and take responsibility for their area. They’ll learn team work, responsibility, creativity and decision-making – skills which are vital in the world of work but that are often neglected in school. It’s widely accepted that the children we are teaching will have careers and jobs that do not exist yet and that we cannot even imagine. In my opinion, we need to teach skills that will help them to succeed in business, as well at the more traditional subjects.

We won’t be doing this alone. We have the backing of Adnams (a local brewing company), which has now diversified into hotels and restaurants and this is where we come in. We are working with Siobhan Eke, who is the mastermind behind the project and the real driving force. With her support we will set up and run our company, sell our products (hopefully back to Adnams!) and reinvest our profit.

The project is in its early stages. At the moment, our students are trying to drum up support for the project in the form of financial assistance and equipment. They are really starting to take ownership of it though and have already started to bring in work they’ve done at home.

I have no idea if this project will work but I’m excited to take a step into the unknown. Let’s hope we can drum up support and interest for our venture and make it a real success. If early indications are anything to go by, the children’s enthusiasm WILL make it a success.

Our raised beds are almost ready… Now let’s get growing!

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4 things to cook with children on a camp fire!

Children need to engage in risk if they are to learn to how deal with risks. Education in the past 10 years has become scared of children taking risks, but green shoots of change are slowly appearing. Allowing children to take risks is key to them learning how to  manage it.

Cooking over an open fire is an easy way to expose children to a manageable degree of risk and with very tasty outcomes! Here are my top 5 things for children to cook on an open fire.

  1. Bread

Bread twists are a simple and delicious food to cook on the open fire. Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl;

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of powdered milk
  • 1 tpsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tpsp of salt
  • (optional) 1 tpsp of sugar

You will also need some vegetable oil to bind it together.

With the bread dough prepared, the children should heat the sticks over the fire.  Make sure they don’t burn – just enough to warm and sterilise the stick at the place that the bread dough will be going.

Get the children to start twisting the bread dough around the stick, using a bit of pressure so it adheres.  Then, cook over the fire.

The sticks should be maintained at a height where you can safely hold your hand for a few seconds before it gets hot.  Make sure they rotate their sticks regularly so that one side doesn’t get burnt.

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2. Popcorn

You can buy special popcorn making pans which are designed to go over an open fire. I prefer the more ‘hand made’ approach! Get two metal sieves and attach them so they are facing each other. Tie them together with metal wire. Attach them to a long stick and off you go! Just put the un-popped kernels into the sieves, keep them moving around and wait for them to pop!

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3. Chocolate Bananas

This one was my favourite when I was growing up! You need to let your fire burn down so there is no more flame. Cut open a banana (long ways, with the skin still on) and insert pieces of chocolate into the incision. You can experiment  with different types of chocolate, but from my experience buttons or a flake work well. Wrap the banana and chocolate in tin foil, place the parcel into the embers and leave for around 10 minutes. Take out and eat with a fork. Yum Yum!

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4. S’mores

This is my son’s favourite food to cook on an open fire and a great introduction to outdoor cooking. Skewer a marshmallow and roast on the fire until it starts to turn gooey, sandwich between two biscuits and enjoy!

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5 things to do with the humble stick!

Any person who takes children outside for learning will have a ‘go to’ piece of equipment. Mine is the humble stick. Here are 5 ways I have used sticks during learning outside!

1. Wool wrapped sticks

This one really appeals to my crafty side. It is also great for improving children’s fine motor control. It’s really simple for the children to complete – simply find a stick of their choice, tie on a ball of wool and off they go. The trickiest part is getting started with the wrapping, but if you tie the knot fairly tight and then wrap over the knot, it should be plain sailing!

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Multicoloured balls of wool work best, as you get a really nice contrast in colours, but any left over wool will work!

2. Stick paint brushes

This activity involves slightly more than just a stick but it’s still simple enough to do with any age or ability of children. Children find a stick and then find some other materials to use as the brush head. This can be grass, ferns, leaves, feathers – anything they want to try out. Hold the brush head materials against the top of the stick and secure with an elastic band. Now comes the really fun part: get the children to paint pictures with their new brushes and experiment with different heads.

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3.  Make a trail with your sticks

This was my favourite activity when I was younger, although it does require more than just one stick! Create a trail using sticks and rocks as various symbols. The simplest trail is just to make arrows with the sticks to show directions, but there are several more features you can try, as show below:

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4. Cook over a campfire

My son’s favourite activity! Use a stick to cook various foods on an open fire. Marshmallows are great for this, but take care to let them cool  down before eating. 

Bread twists are also a great food to cook on the open fire. To make each twist:

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of powdered milk
  • 1 tpsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tpsp of salt
  • (optional) 1 tpsp of sugar

You will also need some vegetable oil to bind it together at the campsite.

With the bread dough prepared, the children should heat the sticks over the fire.  Make sure they don’t burn – just enough to warm and sterilise the stick at the place that the bread dough will be going.

Get the children to start twisting the bread dough around the stick, using a bit of pressure so it adheres.  Then, cook over the fire.

The sticks should be maintained at a height where you can safely hold your hand for a few seconds before it gets hot.  Make sure they rotate their sticks regularly so that one side doesn’t get burnt.

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This is me and my son Finley enjoying a marshmallow  cooked on a stick that he found himself! (Willow works really well if you can find it!).

5. Wind chimes

A lovely activity that younger children will really enjoy (and love to take home at the end of the day) is to make wind chimes from sticks.

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Select different length sticks and tie them to another (horizontal) stick. Hang nearby to catch a breeze!