MONDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2013 ____A NEW KITCHEN AT CHARLTON MANOR SCHOOL
A very special kitchen at a very special school
Last week on Friday, I was invited to open the kitchen at a school in London: Charlton Manor Primary School. It may seem that opening a school kitchen is unimportant - a trivial matter - but in this case it was actually a very special moment. It is so often the case that great projects in life are initiated and led by one single person who has a vision and who wants to bring about change.
And Tim Baker, headmaster of Charlton Manor Primary School, is such a man. He has worked with his fantastic team of staff to create an extraordinary school with an amazing ethos. This is a school in a very underprivileged area of London, where many of the children have very little, and Tim has brought something very special to the school.
RB speaking before performing the opening ceremony. On his right is Tim Baker, headmaster of Charlton Manor Primary School
When I arrived, I was shown round the school and moved almost to tears by what I saw. I am not talking about academic achievement (although i'm sure that is all helped by what they have done): the school has built a beautiful kitchen garden and a new school kitchen. And through these initiative they have put gardening and food right at the centre of this school and its curriculum. It is changing everything: food connects with everything. With health and with homework, with lifestyle and with health.
A kiss for a member of staff! Photo by kind courtesy of Vickie Flores www.vickieflores.com
Walking around the school I met some many lovely children, all taking pleasure in their surroundings. There was no aggression, no bad behaviour. Tim and his team have created an environment which recognises that food and nutrition are central to life.
Here are just some of the initiatives Tim has introduced to this inner city primary school:
A kitchen garden where they grow fruit and vegetables, with a greenhouse, a compost bin and a wormery. They have entered the Chelsea Flower Show three times and have won a Silver Gilt Medal there, environmental awards and a RHS level 5 award.
- Chicken in the garden: as Tim says : "We decided to keep Chickens in the garden so the children can learn about the food chain especially where eggs come from. They also learn about the wellbeing of animals and how to be responsible for their upkeep. The chickens really support the children when they may feel a little angry as holding them calms them down."
- Bee hives - the school now has four hives and the children have learnt a huge amount from observing the bees and their behaviour.
- There is also a Hide from which children can view (and record on camera) the birds and small animals which visit the garden, and can also use microscopes to analyse soil, etc.
- The garden is a wonderful resource giving our children experiences that they would not normally get. The wildlife area helps them to understand human impact and how we can reduce its negative effects.
A kitchen many restaurants would be proud to have! (photo: Ankush Bhasin)
With my trusty assistants - the A team of Adam and Kush - we cooked in the wonderful school kitchen, marvelling at what has been created here. The children were so enthusiastic as we made some beautiful omelettes and talked about the food chain, from "plot to pot" from seed to fruit. Imagine my delight when, in advance of our visit to the school, Tim sent an email saying:
"Currently growing in our garden are sprouting seeds - alfalfa, leaf salad - Californian mix, curled cress, salad leaves - winter greens, cos lettuce mix, pee shoots - twinkle, broad beans, and chicory. We also have eggs from the school's chickens and honey from the school's bees"
What an inspiration! How wonderful to do a demonstration using eggs from the school's own chickens.
So, you can see that this is no insignificant kitchen opening. If only more schools could repeat the efforts and experiments of Tim and his team at Charlton Manor - what wonderful lessons in life, and food, and sustainability our children would learn.
(photo: Ankush Bhasin)
Well done Tim, and thank you so much for asking me to open your kitchen: it was an honour and a privilege for me to meet you, your staff and the lovely children too. I wish you the very best of luck in the future, and hope that your example will be taken up by many many others.
The plaque is unveiled!
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