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Surrounded by tall, imposing, buildings, the city’s hustle and bustle can be clearly heard in the carpark. Hooting cars and bellowing buses are competing with the clanging sounds of nearby building sites.

Amongst all this din, the sounds of the city are being absorbed and drowned out by 3 brightly coloured, wooden, square boxes that proudly sit in the corner of the Sheffield Nacro carpark. Inside the colourful boxes are an even more impressive array of colours. All sorts of vegetables and flowers are growing.

Although the learners are in the middle of a noise fest, they peacefully gaze at the intriguing mixture of vegetables. These students have created and grown their own piece of quiet countryside within a busy metropolis.

A few months earlier, Jackie Bradley, Catering & Hospitality Tutor, had been teaching her learners about the benefits of cooking with freshly grown herbs and vegetables, and an idea started to grow in her mind: a wellbeing garden within the centre’s carpark. This lead to a competition being set for learners to design their own gardens.

The young chefs were provided with all the right ingredients and equipment ready to make their very own wellbeing garden. After lining the inside of the boxes with plastic sheets, the learners voted on painting them sage as a contrast to the city’s mundane grey and black surrounding buildings.

It was a proud moment for all the members of staff as we saw the catering students working together on this project and take ownership of their wellbeing garden with everyone playing a part towards the final outcome. One of the learners even brought in a bamboo screen to protect the flowers from the winds.

The winner of the competition was Oliver, a learner who has shown much progress in overcoming barriers to learning to independently complete classwork.

Jackie said, “When it comes to practicals, Oliver is a fantastic cook but he did not want to write his work down as he has difficulty concentrating but using various learning strategies and with a few words of encouragement, Olly is now capable of producing some amazing written work and his ideas for the wellbeing garden evidences that. He has really taken a keen interest in this initiative.”

Oliver said, “It’s actually quite relaxing just chilling here and looking at these vegetables, it feels like I’ve achieved something and these plants are our babies…” after a thoughtful moment, he laughs and adds, “we’re not going to cook them, just look after them and let them grow beautifully!

Blog written by Nacro Sheffield tutor, Jed Khaliq