Susanna Lynam is a teacher of Year 6 at ICHK Hong Lok Yuen.
ICHK Hong Lok Yuen has a very rare commodity in this urban landscape that we call Hong Kong.
It has ‘Green Space’ that students can explore and learn in. As a teacher, I’ve always loved the green space that is available for outdoor learning in this school.
For those of you who may not have explored the full extent of our school, there is a designated green space off the field where the space has been divided into plots of earth that students can take ownership of and learn how to grow food and look after the environment.
In the past three years I have loved taking my students to this outdoor gardening space and as I’ve reflected on my teaching practice, I’ve realised that this resource has enabled me to reach and teach students in ways I never could have in the classroom.
For some of my students it is one of the few places where they completely relax and give themselves fully to the learning process. So much real life, hands on learning can happen in the outdoors and as I’ve turned over the soil with my students, composted the soil, pulled up weeds, planted seeds, watered, harvested and eaten the things we’ve grown, we have learnt so much about nature and so much about ourselves.
Students have learned to take risks, tasting foods and herbs that they’ve never had before and learning how to be courageous and pick caterpillars and snails off our plants so that our plants don’t all disappear.
Students have learned so many new skills as they’ve grown to care for our green space. One of my special memories is of a day when we were in the garden and I turned around to see Rocky (one of our male handy men in the school) teaching some boys how to hold the hoes properly and use it effectively to break up the soil. The happiest memory I have is the day the students harvested all our lettuce, carrots and sweet peas and made a salad. The students were so proud of themselves and Fiona and Evan spent ages washing each leaf, carrot and sweet pea so that everyone could eat some salad. Annabeth admitted she didn’t eat salad and it was a huge step for her to step out and eat the salad from our garden.
It has been proven that the memories and learning that we hold onto is nearly always linked to action. I have no doubt that my students will hold onto their love of the environment and their knowledge of how to grow and take care of plants because they have been actively involved, touching the soil, planting the seeds, watering, weeding and harvesting. I know that my students are richer and more confident because of the opportunity to learn and grow in our very own ‘green space’.