Inspiring creative thinking through gardening

Using challenging cross-curricular approaches

This is a new creative learning initiative from the Helen Storey Foundation and RSA Academies designed to get imaginations buzzing about planting possibilities in our changing environment. Together we will create a series of imaginative and inspiring gardens across the RSA family of schools.

The participating schools are going to create a garden in an under-used corner of the school grounds or somewhere highly visible with a sculptural centre piece starting in October 2016. As not much grows in winter months, the plants in the garden will flower in spring through to summer as well as consist of plants and shrubs that are beautiful in wintery days. The garden is a proof of concept and must consider an inventive element that allows the garden to be moved.

The definition of ‘garden’ is fluid. It could for example be a portable shed, wheelbarrow, wheelie bin or a recycled structure that is functional for growing, like shoes – it could be something that is not associated with gardens. It is a chance to re-imagine part of the school environment as a space to bring joy and wonder.

The RSA’s Royal Designers for Industry have donated an unwanted object/art piece that will form part of the design and be re-purposed taking on a new life. The objects donated include a hat from Stephen Jones, OBE RDI, a model of the Infinity Bridge from Chris Wise, RDI and a toilet from Robin Levien, RDI. The schools pitched for the different objects and a panel decided which school would get which object. You can read about the objects and what the schools had to provide in their pitches.


The garden design needs to consider the following (plus more of the schools’ own):

Climate change and planting for pollution and resilience, thriving in challenging spaces, sustainability, moveability, beauty, seasons, landscape design, re-purposing and story-telling.

There are further themes that schools can explore (plus more of their own):

Citizenship and community, horticulture and design careers, plant science, enterprise, cherishing the school environment, celebrating human ingenuity, health and well-being, guerrilla gardening, eco-schools, spirit of investigation, art, photography.


Schools have nominated a team of people to manage the project: a combination of caretakers and teachers who are interested in this project/design, art, geography, science, maths etc. We’ve learnt that it’s helpful to have a big team of people involved – even better if people are passionate gardeners! The schools will then have the open-ended challenge of interpreting the concept in a way that works for their school by involving students and letting their imaginations flow in response.

This is happening with limited resources, and in line with the theme of the project we are asking garden centres and horticultural suppliers to donate unwanted plants that could be be re-purposed for this project. If you would like to donate plants or gardening equipment, we would love to hear from you: please contact Georgina Chatfield.

And why is it a secret? We will unearth unexpected possibilities and make new discoveries.

Schools involved:

Project details:

Date Started September 2016
Date Finished Spring 2017
Project Funder RSA Academies