On Friday, my son's primary school held its end-of-year award winning "Farmers' Market".
With gazebos and traditional bunting to set the scene, the hall was transformed into a wonderful entrepreneurial venture, with fresh vegetables, plants and food on offer as well as toys that the children had either decorated or made.
Organised entirely in-house, with just some support from the school community and a couple of external producers, the school Farmers' Market has already won a Green Suffolk award. And it really is well-deserved. This is something really special and here's why I love it....
- Most of the vegetables sold - including those in the photograph above - are grown by the children and are planted and watered during lesson time or by the gardening club. Not only do they learn about growing food as part of the curriculum, but they also learn that there is a real market for their produce as well as the economic value of food.
- In preparation for the event, some of the classes had the opportunity to make food and drink for sale. The Year 4 children were really proud of the pizzas they had made. Year 3 had also been busy that day making fresh lemonade. Not only was it a great commercial opportunity, but the educational benefits can be long-lasting. My 8-year-old was so proud that he knew how to make lemonade, he woke up on Saturday and Sunday wanting to show off his new skills and make some more!
- It's also a fabulous way to raise funds from existing resources. Our school is blessed with lots of lavender, which flourishes in the summer and is then cut back as part of the grounds maintenance work. The market offers a great opportunity to gather bunches and sell it to children and parents, raising a few extra pounds from a resource that could otherwise go to waste.
- It also gets the wider community involved. Families have a chance to contribute, with home-made jams, cakes, biscuits and seedlings helping to raise money for the school. Kind donations were also received from local potato growers as well as a supplier of free-range eggs.
- The older children have a chance to manage stalls, serving their customers and handling the money, some independently and others with staff help. It was obvious to see that it was a great confidence-builder and what a fantastic way to bring maths out of the classroom into a real practical setting!
For an after-school event that only lasted an hour, I could rave on about it for hours more, but I guess you already get the gist. This is only the second summer Farmers' Market, but the school has also held one at Christmas, which was a real festive highlight. Seriously, if you've got school-aged children, I'd recommend having a word with your headteacher in the hope that they can organise something similar. This is learning at its finest - with children and the school community, working together on a practical project that doesn't even feel like education!
So, while you go and stir up the vegetable beds, I'm off to indulge in a glass of my son's home-made lemonade and ponder a proposition that might encourage him to become my regular supplier.
I could get used to this life. If I play my cards right, this could lead to my retirement on a lemon orchard somewhere on the continent, or even here in Suffolk. By then, we might even have the weather for it.