Young people at Music Stuff Education in Openshaw, Manchester, had a big outdoor space to explore but no enthusiasm for stepping a foot outside the comfort of their school building. Their garden, once nothing but AstroTurf, now has it’s very own: raised bed, marble effect mural, and raised planters full of sensory flowers and herbs – all created by the young people themselves with help from the youth team.

Music Stuff Education offers a specialist provision for secondary age pupils who are struggling within mainstream schooling. Manchester started working with a group of MSE’s young people as part of The Ernest Cook Trust’s Green Leaders Scheme.

In the young people’s first session with Groundwork, they explored the nature that already existed in their school garden. They selected some of this nature and brought it inside to use it as art inspiration whilst painting their very own plant pots.

The group were asked what they would like to grow and gave suggestions with enthusiasm. Over the following weeks, the young people learnt what various seeds look like; how to sow these seeds and how to water them. Some young people had never sown seeds before. They started to make the connection between the seeds in vegetables and fruit they eat, and the seeds they were sowing.

A few young people really enjoyed this process, they slowed down to be delicate with the seeds, noticed bugs in the soil and even opted to do this outdoors. One day, a young person who originally showed no interest in gardening, came up to us with his plant saying:

“I sowed this myself, look how much it’s grown! I just want to see things grow!”

Throughout the project, the group made bird feeders from pine cones, learnt Tataki (flower & leaf pounding), assembled a raised bed and filled it with soil, potted plants, painted a mural and learnt how to saw and drill wood. Almost all activities took place outside, which was a big achievement considering the group had no interest in leaving the building at the start. Most young people were trying these activities for the first time, and they enjoyed the fast-paced, high energy work.

One young person really took to sawing and drilling, especially on wood. He told the team that he was good at it and wants to do more of it. One week he drilled 23 large holes into a thick pole of wood which will later become a bee hotel – he was very pleased with himself! Teachers at the school said that the sessions were all he engaged in each week.

Music Stuff’s school garden is now greener, creatively decorated with art made by students and ultimately a more welcoming space!