Learning in the Garden

It was snowing as I went into the forest garden to continue tidying it up. Fern and Ollie, children from the area, were there with Fern’s mum Bekah and two other adults, Elizabeth and Chloe. They were all crouched down around the small pond touching the ice to see how thick it was. “We’re looking for signs of winter,” Elizbeth told me. So I joined in, pushing the thin sludgy layer of snow across the ice with my fingers.

Yes! A magic moment, having these young ones in the garden, exploring the world around them. It was just great. And it continued, they were walking around the garden exploring the paths and the dried up forms of plants. All of a sudden the new micro greywater system sprang into life. Water was spurting through the holes in the grey pipe and into a gravel filled mini-pond or cell.

I called the children over. “Look, come and see this!” And they came with their full curiosity to where the water system is. Together we watched as water spurted out of the holes and into the gravel beds.

“Where’s it coming from?” Ollie asked. I showed them how the water was coming from a neighbour’s washing machine in a nearby building and described how it traveled in a pipe underground and then flowed through the three gravel treatment cells. It was so great to share a moment when the system was in action with them, they are so delighted by learning new things.

As the system is recently installed it’s easy to see the infrastructure and how all the bits are connected. At some point in the future, it will be hidden by the plants in the system when they’ve grown to their full size. The microbes on the roots of the plants will naturally do their thing which helps to clean the greywater to a point where it can be used to water the fruit trees and bushes in the garden.

When I’d finished briefly showing them where the water flowed, one of the adults asked the children, “And what’s it for?” And they responded, “To clean the water.” At four years old, they know more many adults would know. Setting up a greywater filtration system should become part of every school curriculum, as foundational as reading and writing.

Already I can see the value in the garden and the water system as outdoor learning places. The children had two unusual experiences of water, one frozen; hard and cold and the other moving; spurting, trickling and “a bit smelly”.

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