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School Gardening and SEND

Posted by Melissa Quinney on Jan 23, 2024 1:42:00 PM

At Cabins For Schools, we are huge advocates for schools and nurseries taking learning and playing outdoors. We believe it’s particularly important and beneficial for pupils with SEND and SEMH. Having a school garden for children with SEND provides scope for social and therapeutic horticulture. Let’s discuss the multitude of benefits…

What is social and therapeutic horticulture?

Thrive specialist Damien Newman explains: ‘Gardens in schools come under several different styles, with different or overlapping uses: gardens for respite, gardens for learning and teaching, gardens for wellness (general health and wellbeing) and gardens for therapy (achieving specific health and wellbeing outcomes). Social and therapeutic horticulture is a description of using horticulture and other garden related activities to support people towards health and wellbeing.’ Furthermore, Newman states that: social and therapeutic horticulture provides three valuable therapeutic opportunities: time in nature, time being occupied and time in a social environment.’ 

For pupils with SEND and SEMH, time spent outdoors in the natural world provides a vast array of benefits to their mental and physical health. Unfortunately, many young people with additional needs don’t always get the opportunity to go outside and embrace the natural world. This can be due to factors such as medical requirements, transportation issues, the need for close supervision or inadequate provisions for accessibility. We encourage schools and other educational settings to develop their outdoor spaces and provide accessible outdoor provisions to give pupils with SEND and SEMH outdoor opportunities to spend that all important time in nature, allowing them to reap the benefits that activities like gardening can provide!

Forest School Cabin 


What are the benefits of a school garden?

Thrive, the gardening for health charity, say that the benefits of a sustained and active interest in gardening include:

  • Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility
  • Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement
  • The opportunity to connect with others - reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion
  • Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment 
  • Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the ‘great outdoors’

Moreover, Provide Education lists:

  • School gardens provide the opportunity to involve parents. This therefore brings the school community together
  • Children learn about hands on gardening that they otherwise could miss out on (some pupils, particularly those with SEND, might not have the opportunities at home)
  • School gardening could foster links with local garden centres
  • Encourages children to eat more fruit and vegetables, which links to healthy eating
  • Gardening offers different grades of adaptable activities for everyone
  • Provides lots of opportunities for sensory work e.g. texture of plants, smells, colours - great for pupils with SEND
    View our Cabins

Cabins For Schools - Happy Homestead Nursery_17aRequest Your FREE BrochureA teacher was interviewed for SEN magazine. Her students with SEND have been attending the Pots and Petals programme supplied by Thrive. When discussing the impact of the gardening programme on her students, she said: 'we saw greatly increased stamina and concentration with regards to their energy levels and the length of time that they were able to stick at a task. They learnt to enjoy working outdoors and some were fascinated by the changing seasons and how these affect the gardens. We saw increased self-esteem and improved confidence in our students and a real sense of pride in their work, as they were able to see tangible results, from preparing a vegetable patch for planting through to growing beautiful plants from seeds.’

At Cabins for Schools, we often talk about how taking students outside and providing another learning environment can hugely benefit pupils. This can be especially true for students with SEND and SEMH who might find the traditional classroom environment challenging. Providing provisions for a school garden gives students an alternative space where they might find that they flourish, enabling them to access additional learning opportunities that a classroom can't provide. To support schools with offering outdoor learning and forest school, we design log cabins to facilitate a wide variety of outdoor educational activities... 

How a log cabin will improve your school garden 

Take your school garden or your outdoor learning/activity provisions to the next level with a Cabins For Schools log cabin. Students with SEND deserve quality, accessible provisions. For example, we can design and install our log cabins with a ramp for wheelchair access. They are bespoke to meet the needs of your school’s pupils. 

  • Shelter: Our log cabins provide high-quality shelter from all weather conditions. They allow for a base for breaks when the rain comes or for accessing shade in the sunny months

  • Set up for discussions: our log cabins are designed with a circular shape, with benches which provide circular seating. This is a great set-up for discussions before and/or after gardening sessions, perhaps for allowing pupils to talk about how the session went or share thoughts and ideas. This therefore enhances the social impact of school gardening as well as establishing a safe and secure base for social and therapeutic horticulture. 

interior of log cabin for forest school or outdoor learning

  • Storage space: our log cabins offer additional space for storing materials, tools, seeds, even coats and wellies which your main school building might not have space for. As our buildings are bespoke, we can offer cabins with extensions to offer a ‘side room’ to store away all of your gardening supplies without detracting from the space inside for learning activities

  • BBQ Cabin for cooking produce: as well as log cabins with solar pipes to let the natural light in, we also design and install BBQ log cabins with a central BBQ grill. This would be a fantastic addition to schools looking to develop their school gardening programmes or activities even further by offering opportunities to cook the vegetables after! Our BBQ cabins are perfect for introducing fire safety and cookery into the outdoor learning curriculum. Springfield SEND School use their BBQ cabin to support students with severe learning difficulties and complex needs. Perhaps your educational institution will aspire to support your students with SEND and offer gardening at your school, made inclusive, accessible and all the more easier with a Cabins for Schools log cabin...


Damien Newman: ‘Gardening and Sen’ - Sen Magazine

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Topics: schools, outdoorlearning, forestschools, cabins for schools, Multi-Function Space For Schools, Log Cabin, Inclusive Spaces, library