Garden full of treasures…



This week we enjoyed a lovely afternoon looking for treasure in the school gardens. The clues leading us to where the goodies might lie were all based around things we have learned so far in gardening lessons or information we might have about how our school gardens are arranged. It was a great way for the pupils to have fun in the outdoors, reminding themselves at the same time about all they know. Meanwhile, teacher could assess prior knowledge in a relaxed and informal way that did not stress the students.

The link at the top of this post will take you to an example of the kind of things we were asked to look for.


Everyone did really well in remembering where things were kept, grew or could be found. It was impossible to make a decision as to who had won the Treasure Hunt by the end as the quality of answers and speed of recollection were so impressive. All of the pupils were able to solve all of the clues in their own time, at their own pace and with appropriate (but minimum) support from others.

In the end, we decided democratically to share the prize – an ostrich egg laid in the ostrich nest in the Science Garden. Well, okay, maybe not. However, the prize was ostrich egg shaped and of similar proportions. It may have been made from a material manufactured by Cadbury. But we couldn’t possibly say for certain…given this is a Health Promoting School of the highest standing…

The circle of life…the butterfly

This week in Gardening and Science we have taken the opportunity to look at a process that relates well to our investigations into birth, growth, puberty and reproduction (Science) but also is extremely relevant to our work in the garden to try and ensure we encourage “helpful insects” that pollinate plants (See “Be Good To Bees” post for more information)…

The life cycle of the butterfly is a process that the children were readily able to explain as simple fairytale-like stories (some even related it to the tale of the Ugly Duckling). Their obvious prior knowledge of the famous Eric Carle book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was a huge support in tackling the concept.

We told lovely tales of how the mother butterfly lays eggs on leaves, these eggs hatch and a baby caterpillar emerges and eats the egg shell. Excitedly we spoke of how the caterpillar is something of a “gannet” and goes on to eat and eat and eat – and as it grows and grows and grows, gets too big for its “clothes”! At last, we were told, the caterpillar gets so big it wants to go to sleep and does so in a special bed. We were delighted that the children were able to confidently call this bed a cacoon. One pupil excelled, telling us they knew the correct term was a “chrysalis”. After his sleep, the caterpillar wakes up. However, during his nap he has somehow turned into a beautiful butterfly!

We made stunning model butterflies and placed them on a wall poster to show everyone else what we know about their life cycles. Please feel free to come and have a look!

Finally, we spoke about other animals who go to sleep for extended periods of time. One pupil had asked if the chrysalis stage of the cycle was like a bear hibernating and so we expanded on that lovely question to work out for ourselves if they were the same thing…or something quite different. The animals we considered as sleepy heads included:

  • bears
  • hedgehogs
  • squirrels
  • snakes
  • some small rodents
  • tortoises

We know what we think about whether this cute little furry friend is sleeping for the same reasons as a caterpillar in a chrysalis – but what do you think?

Be good to bees, please…

Preston Lodge High School has joined many schools and individual children in taking part in the BBC Blue Peter “Be good to bees” campaign for 2009.

The ELP Gardening group have been the lucky recipients of special BBC Blue Peter wild flower seeds known to be especially attractive to species of bees that are now endangered.

These precious creatures are at risk of dying out because of viruses, wet weather, parasites and lack of food. In the past year alone, we’ve lost a quarter of all bees in hives – that’s 2 billion bees.

Bees are vital in helping produce food and flowers. Without them, our environment could change drastically.

So Blue Peter are giving away 75,000 free Be Good to Bees packs of wildflower seeds. Plant them in a suitable container on a windowsill or in your garden, and they’ll soon grow into very special place where bees can hang out. The ELPs will be doing this at Preston Lodge and monitoring their growth as the months pass – hopefully we can do our bit to help protect these important insects.

Red Nose Day is going to be a piece of cake!

Red Nose Day is approaching fast and the ELPs have decided that they wish to do something sweet for the big event. As part of our work looking at how food grown from the ground can be distributed and sold fairly, grown in a sustainable and healthy way and used in a manner that keeps us fit, we thought we could make some FAIRTRADE FRUITY RED NOSE CAKES.

We will use Fairtrade produce to make these cakes and, wherever possible, the fruits of the garden.

This is going to be a fabulous opportunity to put into practice our knowledge of Fair Trade goods, organic fruit and combine them with lifeskills like shopping (for the ingredients), using money (buying the ingredients), reading (following the recipe) and cooking (the yummy bit!).

We will also show the enterprising side of our natures by selling the cakes to raise money for Comic Relief – who help disadvantaged people both in the UK and Africa (somewhere we have looked at a lot this year in Social Studies and Gardening). Help us help them by buying a Red Nose Day cake from us! Thank you.

Working with dinosaurs…The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

As part of our One Scotland look at the Lost World, written by Edinburgh author Arthur Conan Doyle, we will be taking aspects of this piece of work into a number of different subject areas.

Primarily we will be reading an abridged, differentiated version of the book courtesy of the UNESCO City of Literature 2009 – Edinburgh! Practising our reading skills will be an important part of this project.

In Science we will be looking at dinosaurs from a scientific point of view – investigating what scientists think they know about the lives of dinosaurs, where they lived, what they ate and how they perhaps disappeared from the planet. We will be looking at modern day survivors of the Jurassic era – how has the crocodile managed to hang around for so long, when other animals have gone?

In Gardening we will be finding out from the Botanic Gardens and other useful sources of information what sort of plants might have been growing when the dinosaurs roamed the planet. We can use this information to help us plan our own model of The Lost World. We want to make sure the greenery we use is appropriate to the time.

In Social Studies we will be looking more closely at the history of the dinosaur – the timelines some scientists have given to the various animals based on the fossilised remains that archeologists have found. We will become detectives in working out our own history of the dinosaur!

With Miss Strachan we will look more closely at the work of Arthur Conan Doyle – becoming detectives again, like his famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. We hope to visit some of the landmarks in Edinburgh where he was born, lived, studied or worked.

As part of our preparations for all of this work we have been undertaking research using books,experts, ICT and media broadcasts.

Mr McKay unwittingly became something of an “eye witness” for our pupils when he wandered into a history lesson this week. Asked by the children what he knew about dinosaurs, Mr McKay impressed us with tales of how dinosaurs lay and tend their eggs – explaining how baby dino gender is determined by egg temperature. Later on the same day the pupils could be heard innocently telling another member of staff that Mr McKay had been around with the dinosaurs…

We have sourced a number of fabulous items including the following link to a BBCi player programme first broadcast on February 19th. Please be aware there are time limits on accessing it. It would be fantastic if the children were to have the opportunity to watch this programme for themselves in the relaxation of their own homes. It is part of the Little Howard’s Big Questions series. The programme is called Could Dinosaurs Ever Come Back?

We hope that you all enjoy it.


Welcome to our new friends – Rainbow and HB!

On Tuesday afternoon our class visited Dobbies Garden Centre near Dalkeith to investigate what goes on…and to buy a special person some new fish!

In our Tuesday Gardening lessons with Mrs Binnie and Mrs Simpson we have been undertaking a wide range of planting and growing activities. We have made bird feeders, bird food and bird boxes. We have done scientific experiments to investigate if we could grow some vegetables without soil. We have gone on lovely nature walks looking for different leaves, trees, cones, nuts and other tree litter. On coming back into school, we have used much of these when making indoor ornaments, decorations or pictures. We have planted bulbs, seeds and tubers. We have cooked with apples from the garden and made our own home made vegetable soup. We have even explored the life and works of Robert Burns – himself from farming stock – in relation to the land and the harvest.

Most recently, however, we have been looking at the function and role of the garden centre. Indeed, we have gone as far as designing our own garden centre – which can be seen on display in Mrs Binnie’s room – and built up a bank of important key words.

This week it was our opportunity to explore the real thing, find out what really went on in somewhere such as Dobbies – and make a very important purchase for a very important person.

We had a good idea before we departed the school of what to expect inside the garden centre. We knew there would be plants, pots, seeds, compost, tools and similar such items. However, we soon discovered to our delight that this particular garden centre had so much more to investigate. The things we did not anticipate finding included :

  • livestock including canaries, guinea pigs and rabbits
  • summer houses
  • hot tubs (!)
  • book shop
  • fashion clothing (we loved the wellies covered in love hearts!)
  • sweets
  • ornaments and gifts

The biggest excitement by far was the hot tub outside as it was in full working order and more than tempting for some of our party. We watched as the bubbles made patterns in the water, the steam rose into the cold afternoon air and Miss Carson wondered if she would be caught if she took a dip…

Mrs Hoban had asked us to make sure we found a special item that she was interested in – so that we could come back with the price for her. We looked hard until we came across it and duly obliged her by making note of the prices of the full range of furniture the item belonged to.

We had all been told we could bring a small amount of money (no more than £3) so that we could practise our life and money skills by buying some juice or hot chocolate and a bun in the lovely cafe. We were all shadowed by an older person as we got our trays, chose our food or drink, checked we had enough money, then went to pay for it at the counter. We all remembered to ask for a receipt and – most importantly – we all remembered to say please and thank you!

The final aspect of our trip and a very special one that was close to all our hearts, was buying a new fish for Dr Voge.

People may remember that Fingers the class goldfish went to the big fish bowl in the sky last October. It was a very sad time for the pupils and they took a few weeks getting over their loss. There were certainly a lot of tears and sadness – the pupils had lovingly tended the fish since they started at Preston Lodge and although it had lived a long life (for a goldfish) everyone was sad to see our friend go. At the time the pupils made a biodegradable coffin and buried Fingers close to Dr Voge’s classroom beneath the sunflowers we planted last spring to brighten up the Physics class’ view.

We decided at that time that we would plan a trip to buy a replacement fish for Dr Voge but would leave it a little while – there were imminent school holidays that would make early maintainence issues difficult. Anyway, we hadn’t quite been ready to replace our friend.

So this week the big day finally arrived…

Mrs Binnie took us to the part of the centre where you can buy both outdoor fish and indoor fish. We had a good look at both kinds and realised that we had better make sure we got the right type! There were some lovely “comets” in a tank. They had fine orange scales on their bodies and delightful white fins and tails. We immediately knew which one to get…but then we asked if we could get more than one.

Mrs B and Dr V had been having a chat about this before we went on our visit. Both had quietly decided that it would be nice if there was more than one fish this time so that each had a buddy. So two fish it was – and Dale kindly obliged by selecting the cutest two finned friends that were in the tank. Home they were to come with us.

The only problem we now faced was choosing names for them. Last time out we put names in a hat and drew out a winning title for the fish who was to become “Fingers”. We decided immediately that we would do the same again this time. Each of us were allowed to come up with some names to be put in Amy’s lovely pink woolly hat. They were:

  • Shiloh and Sparkle
  • Freddie and Bobby
  • Troy and Gabriella
  • Rainbow and Mandy
  • Pinky Pie and Hannah Banana (HB)

The draw was undertaken and the names that came out were Rainbow and HB!

We would like to welcome HB and Rainbow to the class, to be enjoyed by every visitor to Dr Voge’s classroom and to be looked after by us using our well planned feeding and cleaning rota. The ELPs fishkeepers are back in business!


Bards and tatties…

The area of Scotland known as Ayrshire is shown on the map above.

This week it is relevant across the nation – as we celebrate the birth of the National Bard, Robert Burns. Born in Alloway in Ayrshire on January 25th 1759, Burns grew up in hardship, working as a boy on the local farmland. His father was a “tenant farmer” (meaning he worked the land but did not own it) and the many children in the Burns family grew up not going to school as we know it but working hard in the fields. Much of his early teaching came from his father, but later on Burns was sent to Dalyrimple Parish School. However, this was only at times when the farm was not too busy – Burns was withdrawn from the school at harvest time to help bring in the crops.

Robert Burns’ association with farming and growing food is strong – he is often referred to as the Ploughman Poet or the Bard of Ayrshire.

Ayrshire itself is renowned for its potatoes and other farm produce. Go to any supermarket and you will find any of the following foods

  • Ayrshire bacon
  • Ayrshire milk
  • Ayrshire butter
  • Ayrshire cheddar
  • Ayrshire potatoes
  • Ayrshire lamb
  • Ayrshire beef

The land of the Ploughman Poet or the Bard of Ayrshire is very much the land of homegrown produce.

This week in ELP Gardening we will be looking at the foods of Ayrshire in celebration of Burns’ Night. How do they make up part of the Burns Supper? Where would they be grown and how would they be looked after?

Could we grow any of these products ourselves?

We will especially concentrate on two aspects of the Burns Supper – potatoes and neeps (turnips). Both root vegetables, we will find out what they grow from, where they grown and how the farmer tends them. We will ask important questions such as

  • what time of year do you plant potatoes and turnips
  • what do you actually need to plant? (seeds, bulbs, tubers?)
  • what temperatures and light do these plants need?
  • when are they harvested?
  • how can we grow some of our own?

We will also pop along to our school’s Home Economics department to see how they make up their vegetable bags for staff – all of the goodies that go inside these bags are home grown Scottish vegetables.

After making a list of the East Lothian grown foods in the vegetable bag we will try to find out how many of these foods are also grown in Burns Country.

Here’s a clue for starters!


Let it snow…

This week in ELP Gardening we have been looking at how the weather affects the plants. It has been particularly cold of late and we have noticed the hard frost, sleet and snow flurries. We have recently made sure we help the birds in bad weather. This week we looked at the special treatment some plants need in the winter :-

  • bulbs cope well in cold dark conditions
  • other plants need to be brought into the warm
  • we can use glasshouses for certain plants
  • there is a cheaper alternative called the cloche that does a similar job
  • some young trees have plastic bags wrapped round the bottom of the trunk

We also explored the fun things that we can do in the garden when it is winter time…like building a snowman!

We used the Met Office website to find out a little more about snow. We discovered the following:-

  • snow falls from the clouds as little bits of ice
  • all snowflakes are different
  • all snowflakes have 6 points
  • snowflakes melt when they touch things like your nose and your cheek
  • when snowflakes melt they turn to water
  • snowflakes are cold (brrr!)

We were so interested in the pretty patterns made by snowflakes that we thought that we would try to make our own. This was going to be a tricky job as we had to make sure that they all had 6 points and were all different in order to be authentic.

Here is how we did it!

  • We folded up a paper circle into sixths

  • We cut a V shape into the edge (see above)

  • We cut some random holes into the outside edges

  • We opened out the paper…to find our snowflakes!

We then put them on the classroom window to make it feel as if it was snowing outside. Judging by the weather forecast for Thursday we may well be seeing some real ones!

Santa’s little Elpers win design award…

This week in our Gardening lessons we took advantage of the fine weather (cold but dry and sunny!) and went on a lovely walk in the local community. Our trip was not simply an impromptu decision…but part of a Christmas garden design competition!

The challenge was as thus:

  • Split the group into two teams with equal number of pupils and adults
  • Go out into the school grounds and surrounding area and look for natural “litter” that could be used to make a Christmas themed decoration for the home.
  • No living materials (from plants or trees) could be harvested
  • All materials must be “natural litter”
  • Only supplementary materials will be some white and gold paint, some wire, pots, glue and scissors
  • The end products should be completed before the end of the lesson
  • Mrs Hoban (Artistic Guru Extraordinaire) shall be the judge

Both teams set off with great gusto to find appropriate natural materials on the garden floor. It was amazing to find so many different items just lying around, waiting to rot into the soil. Each team had a pot in which they could collect materials – they were soon full of fir cones, pine cones, evergreen twigs and branches, leaves, acorns, conkers and sticks.

The two teams returned to base and went into separate “studios”.

They set to work with great enthusiasm, coming up with fabulous ideas and inspirational designs. It has to be said that their was a little bit of espionage under the guise of asking to borrow scissors and/or glue (ahem) but each team came up with a completely different design and both were equally memorable. Mrs Robertson was actually speechless when she saw the end products… 🙂

One design was based on this photograph…

The other design was based on something that looked like this…

Mrs Hoban was appointed judge and found it very difficult to come up with a clear winner. Indeed, she decided that both designs were so good that we would award a joint first place.

Photographs of the wonderful creations will appear here shortly…