St Mark's Primary School has constructed a "Spiritual Garden" in the grounds of the school for individual children and staff, as well as small groups to visit and use as a source of inspiration and meditation. The design was arrived at after discussion with the children and 75% of the cost was provided from an educational fund released by Swanage PCC. As a parish we are delighted to have been involved in this project.
The following is a copy of a article that has appeared in the current issue of Grapevine:
18 months ago, St Mark's Primary School, Swanage began to explore the possibility of creating a Spiritual Garden to be used by the children and staff of both the school and Little Birds Pre-School. Over the summer, this project has been completed and their dreams have been realised - we think they have achieved something really very special indeed!
A place where children and adults can sit quietly and enjoy the peace and calm of natural surroundings the spiritual garden also aimed to provide a space where there would be opportunities for the spiritual development of both pupils and staff.
The project was initiated in a whole school assembly, where the children were introduced to the concept of a Spiritual Garden and then given a questionnaire to complete with their own garden design. The children’s ideas and suggestions were collated to form a proposal which contained a range of features that were important to the school community. This was taken to the landscaper (Ben Seal, of Seal Landscapes, Wareham), to create a final design for the garden.
In sharing this project with the DBE, Jane Routledge, Reflective Worship Lead and class teacher said, “The school’s Christian Vision is John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”. So, we decided to make this the over-arching theme by choosing a circular-shaped garden to reflect the world, and a silver, spherical water feature that reflects the symbolic light of Jesus as the water trickles over it.
Many children requested plants to stimulate the senses with their bright colours, fragrance and textures, so we have ended up with a wonderful array of them! They also wanted a cross, to reflect the Christian foundation of the school, so we included one, as well as a cross-shape at ground level.
Stepping-stones, paved areas and decking featured highly in the children's plans, as did a fountain or water feature as a reminder of Jesus as the ‘Water of Life’.”
Jane explained that the school’s Christian values of Love, Trust, Respect and Inspire were also important inclusions, as were benches for children and adults to sit on.
She said, “Natural stone symbolised silence and strength for some children, and the wooden features were chosen to provide a sense of warmth and shelter. Several of the designs featured a boat, or seaside theme, which reflects our geographical position on the south coast of the UK and Swanage as a seaside town.”
Jane went on to say, “We are extremely grateful to the many organisations and local businesses who have supported our school in this venture, including Swanage PCC, Sarum St Michael Educational Charity, Wessex Water, Seal Landscapes, Elise Hewitt, Ideal Skip Hire, who donated sand, and Steve from Swanage Boat Hire, who donated the boat.”
Writing about this project during the season of Creationtide seems especially fitting because the school has worked hard to ensure that the garden is ‘environmentally-friendly’ and they have used local businesses and charities as much as possible.
They explained, ‘We have used reclaimed resources of the cobbles in the patio area, and the large rocks in the planted area. Plants and flowers have been largely sourced from Cherry Tree Nursery (a commercial garden plant nursery, which is also a horticultural charity based in Northbourne, Bournemouth which provides meaningful occupation in a supportive environment, aiming to restore well-being to people with mental illness).
It is expected that the plants will attract a wide range of insect life and pollinators. In addition, local stone, used to construct the dry-stone wall, will be a haven for insects and wildlife, whilst also providing a seating area for the children with spectacular views towards the coast.
We have tried to support local businesses, so appointing Seal Landscapes of Wareham to undertake the construction was an important part of the process. We also commissioned a young entrepreneur and her fledgling business, Elise Hewitt of Corfe Castle, to carve our four school values onto oak plaques’.
Jane said, “It is our hope that this will give children opportunities to become aware of the world in new ways, to wonder about the amazing things in life that they experience, to reflect and meditate on their experiences, contemplate life’s big questions and consider some possible answers."
We are sure you will agree that the final result is indeed a beautiful space that will be used for many years by the school’s community. The intention is that it will be used by classes for collective worship and RE lessons, as well as Nurture Groups, storytelling, drama and small group or individual work. What a great resource it will be!
If you have run a school project over recent months that links to your school’s vision and Christian values, do please write in and share your photos and information by emailing email@example.com and Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org