14 October 2022

Nursery garden transformed with local community help

Outdoor learning will be at the heart of the day for pupils at Pitmedden School Nursery following a garden renovation.

Early Years Senior Practitioner Claire Rennie sourced funding and led a community effort with pupils, families, and the wider public helping to turn a disused, outdoor part of the school into a vibrant learning environment.

Claire said: “As a team we felt that the nursery outdoor space was not on par with the amazing play space of our indoor environment. The garden looked in disrepair and in need of a face lift to make it a useable and inviting area.

“We hope that we have created a safe, stimulating environment that will promote exploration, development and learning experiences. It is so exciting to see it finally come together.”

Claire, alongside headteacher Lyn McGibbon, shared an ambition to transform it into an area which inspired curiosity and creativity and that met the Scottish Government’s goal of providing children with daily, high quality outdoor play experiences.

Previously a growing garden for older pupils, the space became vacant when they secured an allotment in the village.

The children themselves were at the forefront of the design process, drawing and discussing their ideas with parents and the wider community’s views on the existing space and how it could be improved gathered using online surveys.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen said: “A huge congratulations to Claire, the school and whole community for working so hard on such an amazing project.

“The nursery now has a fabulous garden which aims to increase pupil wellbeing and engagement and not only transforms the school’s exterior but the daily lives of its pupils.”

Initial funding was provided by Pitmedden’s Co-op store, however the scale of the project meant extensive investment was required, which prompted Claire to meet with the Udny Community Trust which signposted her to various funding bodies.

Despite the challenge of securing highly sought-after funding streams, she won donations from The Mushroom Trust, Alpkit, Udny Community Trust, the Tesco Blue Token Scheme, Friends of Pitmedden School, Co-op Good Causes and Aberdeenshire Council.

Keen to make it a collaborative effort, Claire sought the involvement of staff, children, parents and stakeholders, as well as an intergenerational project at nearby Green Acres Sheltered Housing. 

Now, after fending off challenges spanning rising costs and sourcing materials during the Covid pandemic - not to mention juggling the project with her day-to-day duties - the dream of creating a space that enhances pupils’ learning experiences is finally a reality.