The Who, What and Why of the WESC Foundation Discovery Garden

17 February 2020

Find out more about the WESC Foundation discovery garden. Why is it important for our young people, and how can you help us keep it going?

 

What is our discovery garden?

The discovery garden is an outside area used by our young people and maintained by our horticultural manager, Dylan. A variety of different lessons take place in the gardens, depending on the ability of the students. Some have outdoor stories and music lessons, others plant flowers and build bug homes to learn about wildlife.

Some of our more able students help to grow fruit and vegetables. Our students use the produce grown in our gardens in their food tech lessons. They learn to prepare their own meals and create new recipes based on the food they’ve grown. The entire seed to plate process is covered, from planting the seeds, to harvesting the produce, to cooking it, and then even putting the leftovers on the compost heap.

Horticultural manager, Dylan, standing in the discovery garden

Dylan, our horticultural manager

Why is it important?

The discovery garden is an outdoor classroom. It gives our young people the chance to experience nature up close in a safe environment. They have access to sensory and therapeutic experiences, as well as educational opportunities and a place to be social with their friends.

Dylan says the key to the garden is versatility and variety. “I want to create small areas of different things so there is always something interesting to do depending on the individual.”

We are working on connecting the garden with the residential houses to create more of an outdoor social space. As Dylan has said, “this is their back garden” as well as a classroom, and it’s important that our young people can use it as a place to relax and spend time with friends.

Four logs arranged in a circle to look like benches

A seating area in the discovery garden

Who helps take care of our garden?

We are always looking for volunteers to help us maintain our outdoor spaces. Recently, volunteers from The Prince’s Trust at Exeter College came to help transform two areas of the discovery garden.

The Prince’s Trust program provides volunteering opportunities for 16-18-year-olds not in education or employment. It aims to improve their confidence and encourage pathways into the world of work.

“It’s so important to get young people outdoors,” says Dylan. Volunteering in our discovery garden also helps to teach new skills like teamwork and communication. And is a great way of helping your community. It’s a two-way partnership: volunteers gain experience and skills, and we get more helping hands taking care of our garden.

Group of volunteers from The Prince's Trust at Exeter College standing in the discovery garden

A group of Prince’s Trust volunteers

What volunteer projects could you do?

A team of volunteers tackled a variety of projects in our discovery garden. They began creating a social space in one are by digging a border for some flowers and planting trees. They used flour to mark a border in the grass and then dug up the top layer of turf to make way for new plants. The border will be filled with a host of new plants and flowers. This is part of a plan to incorporate the garden into the residential areas of the campus and give it more of a ‘back garden feel’.

Cone shaped plant supports made out of cuttings from other trees and bushesTellis made out of cuttings from other trees and bushes on top of raised beds

Plant supports and trellis built by the Prince’s Trust volunteers

The group also helped to revitalize another section of the garden. They removed unwanted bricks from the area and emptied a raised bed ready to be replanted with new plants and flowers. Old, dead lavender plants were removed from another raised bed to make way for fresh lavender to be planted. Lavender is important in our gardens as it has a distinctive smell, enabling our young people to use it as a ‘landmark’ to orientate themselves.

 

There are always things to be done in the WESC Foundation discovery garden- for example, the sensory area of the garden needs renovating, rejuvenating and redesigning to make it more easily maintained for our young people.

 

Interested in volunteering for WESC Foundation? Found out more on our website.

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