The planting is just the beginning


Uplands School in Swindon invested their ASDAN grant in a project that is set to benefit students for years to come. Pupils from Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 worked with an experienced team from Cotswold Forest School to design and plant a dome and tunnel made from living willow.

It will provide years of horticultural, sensory, imaginative and creative work-related learning for present and future students at the school, which caters for those aged 11 to 19 with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties or autism spectrum condition. The arbour has been planted in the school’s memorial garden, which means it can also be used as a focal point for contemplation for anyone visiting memorials of past students of the school.

Fiona Clarke, Uplands’ work-related learning lead, said: “Our students will learn about caring for the plants themselves throughout the year as part of their horticultural learning. “They will also learn other skills, like basket making and weaving, as the project develops and we can use the willow for enterprise- related craft activities. In the summer the dome and tunnel will provide opportunities for sensory and imaginative activities and experiences.”

Johno Kimberley, from Cotswold Forest, explained the planting and growing process to students who had the opportunity to plant sections of the willow, explore the dome and tunnel, and investigate the sensory aspects of the project. He said: “It was great to see all the students getting involved in the planting. They all benefited from the experience and will continue to enjoy the living willow throughout their time at Uplands.”

In the days following the planting students investigated the concept of propagation by leaving willow cuttings to root in clear containers of water. Key Stage 5 students annotated scientific drawings of their willow cutting and devised experiments to find answers to their own investigative questions, such as whether the willow cuttings need water and light, and how the cuttings take in water.