Woodhouse Plus - Gardening & Wellbeing

Dated: 25 March 2022

 Students Nancy and Beatriz planting seedlings
Not all Woodhouse Plus options are academic, some are about taking a break from subjects and focusing on wellbeing.
Student progress manager Lisa Fry (who runs the Gardening and Wellbeing W+) said “The students here have benefitted from a number of different wellbeing projects over recent months. Aside from gardening, we’ve enjoyed painting pots, making terracotta plant labels, making Christmas decorations… one week we even did mindfulness colouring of flower pictures - it’s just nice for them to have a chance to chill out really and not do anything academic.
The bulk of the sessions have been taken up with gardening, though the timing of the project has not been ideal (Autumn and Winter) and students have yet to see how well they have done as Spring is only just arriving as their sessions come to an end. But they have persevered with clearing a small plot of land at the back of the college and attempting to create a bee-friendly garden full of plants that attract pollinators.
“The students have worked hard in the garden. They have put lots of seedlings in which have all taken: lavender, daffodils, forget-me-nots, primrose, valerian and buddleia. They even planted about 100 crocuses earlier in the project, they had to dig them in under pouring rain! Unfortunately only a few came up - we are not sure why. But the students knew right from the start that the garden would be a work in progress and they can be proud that they have made a start with it - there was nothing here but brambles before, we had to clear it all - and now they will see the fruits of their labours a little later in the year.”
As well as potting up flowers and placing them around the college to brighten up common areas, the students visited the GROW project in Totteridge. GROW works with schools and communities delivering bespoke programmes in sustainable food growing and outdoor learning.
Eva and Nancy
Student Eva told us “I’ve really enjoyed it. Gardening and wellbeing has been somewhere I can just go and chat with people and make fun things. It kind of feels like you are back in year six sometimes, but that’s quite nice because you can switch off and just take a bit of a break.
I don’t know how significantly it has improved my state of mind but it’s just something nice in the middle of the week to kind of calm yourself down a bit. I really enjoyed when we painted pots and then planted flowers in them while listening to Christmas songs, that was really good - we had an ‘A cappella’ Christmas, it was sensational.”
Fellow student Beatriz said “It’s nice to get away from all the academic things in college. I do a lot of academic stuff with A level psychology, biology and French - it can be intense. We’ve been planting, painting pots, using clay and stuff,and lots of relaxing things. My favourite part was painting I really enjoyed that.
I don’t currently feel I need to take my mental health that seriously, I just stop when I get frustrated, but I think the support that the college give students is good. However, A levels do put a lot of pressure on you which is probably why there needs to be so much support to begin with.
Bethan agreed. “This Woodhouse Plus option is great, it’s just a lot more relaxing than most of the other stuff going on, which are just extensions of the subjects you are learning. The digging in the rain was good - wet, but good - and painting made me realise how much I like to do it having not done it for so many years, so that was a suprise.
Wellbeing support here is good, the teachers make efforts to support you outside of class and they respond to your emails and stuff. Obviously they do set a lot of work and expect a lot of work, but their wellbeing attitude is pretty good.”
And life at Woodhouse in general?
Bethan “The social environment is good and academically, they teach us well.”
Beatriz “I like the freedom they give us at Woodhouse - you don’t have dress codes, you don’t have detention, you have your own consequences and your own responsibility for things.”
Eva “Woodhouse feels quite similar to my secondary school, so it was quite a smooth transition, although at the start… because they are so many people… I was like... ‘how does this work?’. But things are done well here, and organised well. Covid was horrible and I felt like I didn’t learn anything during lockdowns. But the college… it catches you up… they always have some kind of support and they won’t let you drop.”

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