A cross-community gardening project for primary school children came to an end in Guildhall Gardens on Tuesday afternoon.
Pupils from St. Therese’s PS, Lenamore, Bunscoil Cholmcille, Lisnagelvin PS and the Fountain PS all took part in the project which started four weeks ago.
The four different schools were split up into four groups and tended to the flower beds in the gardens and with the help of local horticulture expert Gareth Austin, they planted flowers, shrubs and vegetables.
“The whole point of this project was for primary school children from both sides of the community to come together and not only learn about the environment but learn about one another,” said Leafair Community Association co-ordinator Peter McDonald.
“I think it’s a good positive story for the cross-community work that goes on in the town.
“The project started four weeks ago and I have to say that the feedback from the children has been top class. We made a point of splitting the children up - we wanted all schools represented in the different groups and from what the children told me they made plenty of friends.”
He continued: “For the last few Wednesdays the children met up here at 9.20a.m. and worked together in the garden area until 11a.m. Today [Tuesday] is the final day of the project and to show our appreciation to the children for all their hard work we arranged for them all to go to the Bowling Alley for a game of bowls and to have somethin to eat.
“We are also putting together a bit of DVD slideshow of all the work the children did during the project. We’ll be sending them out to all of the schools and hopefully it will help them with future cross-community work.”
Eleven year-old twins Rachel and Richard Gardner from the Fountain PS said that they enjoyed their time working on the project and added that they had both made plenty of new friends.
“We learned how to dig and we planted some onions,” said 11 year-old Richard. “I don’t like eating onions but I like planting them - it was great fun.
“We started the project four weeks ago and had plenty of fun - now I know how far I have to dig down in order to plant seeds.”
“The thing I liked most about the project was meeting and making new friends from other schools,” said Rachel. “We have plenty of fun and hopefully we will be able to do something like this again in the future.”
Fountain PS teacher Miss Linzie Cooke described the scheme as successful and said that it would be something she would like to see happen again.
“The pupils at the Fountain PS already partake in a gardening programme but it’s fantastic for the children to come here and mix with other children from other schools. It also gives them the chance to show off their skills.
“I think that by bringing this wee group out of school it helps to build their confidence. It not only teaches them to respect their communities but it also teaches the children to respect one another and as one of our pupils just said to me, they enjoy making new friends.
“I think the children have benefited from this programme a lot - even when you consider from a basic gardening skills point of view. It now means that they can use the skills that they have learned here and use them at home to help their parents and grandparents our in the garden.
“All of the children have enjoyed it, they’ve worked very hard and hopefully there’ll be another project like this one in the future.
She added: “A lot the children from different schools have become really good friends and they have also learned to share and work in a team.
“The other good thing about it is that the children are doing active work - they love getting out of the classroom and getting their hands dirty and they literally did that here,” she laughed.
The scheme was funded by the Western Education Library Board, Department of Social Development and was delivered in partnership with Leafair Community Association and Greater Shantallow Area Partnership.