PUPILS from St Clement and St John’s Infant School and Bethany Junior School in Boscombe are celebrating the opening of a new classroom with a difference – their very own garden.

To date, a pond has been built to provide wildlife education and there are plans to grow vegetables to teach gardening and cooking.

The children have now been presented with a box of new gardening tools to help them create their vegetable plot.

Revd Mike Powis opened and blessed the garden, and out-going church warden Marilyn Smith, plus current church warden Carol Williams, were also present at a ceremony.

Formerly owned by St Clements Church, the plot of land was given to the two schools in 2009, but the project had been put on hold due to budget restraints.

As a result, the area had become overgrown and the focus for vandalism.

Thanks to a £3,500 donation from the Talbot Village Trust, fencing has been erected to deter intruders and a water standpipe erected.

The project is also supported by the Back Garden Farmers group, which has undertaken most of the work in securing the area.

Head teacher Stephen Orman said the garden would be of great benefit to the children, many of them who had no green space at home and, up until now, had no school garden either.

He added: “It’s been proven that gardening for children offers many positive learning opportunities, including increasing their scientific knowledge and understanding as well as improving confidence, resilience and self-esteem.

“It engages children actively in a fun way and also gives them a sense of responsibility and contributes to their emotional and physical wellbeing.”

Gary Cox, clerk to the Talbot Village Trust, said: “The Trust recognises the importance of gardening in providing pupils with a rounded education and were very happy to be able to help bring this plot of land to life for them.”

A ‘secret’ garden gate is also being restored and the children plan to grow and sell herbs to local restaurants.

Some of the children’s original design ideas for the garden included a bug hotel, bee-friendly flower bed, fruit and vegetable plot, hedgehog habitat and a tree farm with apples, pears, plums, cherries, vines and olives plus a birdbath and a den.