The teaching kitchen and garden
How it all began
Many years ago we introduced food technology into our curriculum. In those days it was taught in the staffroom using the staff cooker. We soon realised that the children loved the lessons, and that they were becoming much more inquisitive about healthy eating, where food comes from and how it is grown. We decided to use some unused areas of grass to grow some vegetables. Our project reached the ears of EastFeast, a Suffolk-based schools arts and horticultural charity, who helped us to put down permanent raised beds.
It was around this time that Jamie Oliver’s deputy, Louise Holland, had been to visit Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation in Australia. Louise approached Orford Primary School, asking if we would be interested to be part of a new project. The result was that the Jamie Oliver Foundation and the then Headteacher estabished our teaching kitchen with the help of EastFeast, Urban Myth and local businesses.
Once the programme was up and running it was used as the catalyst for Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project.
Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project
Using the experience and knowledge gained at Orford, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation has developed resources and materials for schools across the country to develop their own Kitchen Garden Projects. The programme is currently being carried out in around 200 schools all over the UK, and became nationally available for all schools to join from September 2014. The resources are very adaptable and can be used in schools with more limited facilities than Orford. For more information about the programme visit jamieoliver.com/kitchen-garden-project and for more information on the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation go to jamieoliverfoodfoundation.org.uk
Orford's remarkable teaching kitchen
In 2009, the school opened a purpose-built, dedicated six-cooker kitchen classroom to teach children about food and cooking. The kitchen can cater for classes of up to 10 students, and was one of the first fully equipped primary school kitchen classrooms in the UK. It is accompanied by the garden where the children grow much of the produce that eventually reaches their plates.
Children take part in cooking activities from when they start school at the age of four. This means that by the time they are in Class 2 they are equipped with the skills necessary to be able to cook a simple, nutritionally balanced two-course lunch.
These skills are further developed in Class 3 with children following recipes, doubling or halving the ingredients if necessary. The knowledge and skills of our children exceed the expectations of the National Curriculum and hopefully provide them with a valuable life skill and a love of cooking nutritious, tasty food.
We mainly use recipes from the Jamie Oliver Foundation, and whenever possible use fresh produce from the school's kitchen garden and fruit generously donated by High House Fruit Farm in Sudbourne.
Our bright, sunny kitchen is very well equipped and has French windows leading out on to a deck with views over the Secret Garden and access to an outdoor eating area.
Over the years we have had visits from a variety of award-winning food professionals including Jamie Oliver, his mentor Gennaro Contaldo, David Grimwood from The Froize Restaurant at Chillesford, Jo Brennan from Orford's Pump Street Bakery and the Wright family from The Cake Shop in Woodbridge. On a number of occasions our children have showcased their skills in demonstrations at Aldeburgh Food Festival and photoshoots for the Jamie magazine.
Our wonderful gardens
Recently Orford achieved Level 5, the highest award in the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening benchmark scheme. This was the culmination of many years' work.
Our gardening activities go beyond growing vegetables, and include the following:
This is used to start off and protect tender plants and, most importantly, home to our salad-leaf ‘micro-business’ Luscious Leaves which sells produce to local restaurants. This is also a sheltered place to work when the weather is less than kind.
- Secret garden
A wildlife and sensory area based on the classic children’s novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This space has a winding willow walk, wildlife pond fed by a rainwater rill, fruit bushes and trees and a wildflower meadow. There is also an outdoor eating area used by Classes 2 and 3 for having the lunch they have cooked - when the weather allows.
- The shed
Our well-stocked shed acts not only as a store for our extensive collection of tools, but also a teaching area, shelter and bird hide.
- Compost area
We have four compost bins and a larger heap for bulky green waste. Composting is a vital gardening skill and provides the opportunity for lots of scientific investigation and learning about the environment and sustainability. Our bins are home to a wide variety of ‘helping bugs’ (as one of our four-year-olds described them) as well as larger wildlife such as the occasional family of grass snakes!
- Herb bed and planters
These supply a wide variety of culinary herbs to the teaching kitchen, attract friendly insects and provide sensory experiences.
- Under development
We recently started work to turn the rather unloved former parking area at the front of the school hall into another wildlife area with wildflower meadow, shrubs and log piles and we start using it in earnest this term as our Forest School . We also helped the pre-school with their growing area, giving children the opportunity to pass on their skills and knowledge. We have been given three wormeries which we use to produce natural fertilizer, and use all waste vegetation to produce compost.
The programme at Orford has been evaluated by Sheffield University. The children at Orford were compared against a control school of similar demographics in Suffolk, and the evaluation showed that the programme had a substantial main effect on the pupil’s liking of cooking, helping with cooking at home, and taste description. There was also good evidence of the programme's effect on pupils’ willingness to try new foods. The impact beyond the school gates was also revealed, and the take-home effects were evident, including children helping more with cooking at home, introducing their parents to new foods, and enthusing and engaging parents to cook.