The Secret Gardeners’ Project: impact so far

We are at a point now where we were anticipating drawing The Secret Gardeners’ Project to a close. Silly us! The enthusiasm has not waned, external factors have played an instrumental role and of course, in April, the world is now starting to come to life. Whilst so much has been achieved, there also remains much to do and much ambition to realise – all the while with SATs and exams approaching. So here’s a take on a review so far:

  • Approximately 140 children have participated from 5 RSA schools
  • Schools have been encouraged to think creatively about re-purposing objects originally designed for something else, their school environment and improving it and connecting the creation of the garden with learning whether it is linked to the curriculum or other extra-curricular opportunities
  • Children have taken the lead on developing their garden concept in response to the objects donated by the RDIs and inspiration from Helen Storey and Andrew Grant (also an RDI) – alongside thinking about their school and its community, their own learning and needs as young people to understand the world around them
  • The gardens are still growing and finding further meaning in the schools – we will continue to support and follow the story

Themes that the gardens have explored and have revealed to far:

  • trauma, recovery, reflection, maths, plant biology, community, protection, life cycles, geography, science, ICT, water cycle, seasons, design and technology, English, heritage, creativity, engineering, art, links to growth mindset, sustainability, reclaiming childhood, recycling, what does beauty look like, what working outdoors feels like

Unexpected outcomes so far:

  • We have garnered senior team support
  • There is the potential of using the garden to create a deeper connection with parents
  • Our theme has spread through school with the opportunity to transform other outdoor areas in school
  • There has been collaboration across different year groups (e.g. Y 5/6 gardening and Y7/8 painting umbrellas)
  • Having a workshop with researcher Reiner Rockel and offer of the prototype ‘greenhouse’ (this is testing capture of moisture from the atmosphere through material design)
  • Pupils being exposed to going to university as a real and relatable option
  • ‘Unexpected/difficult’ children have volunteered to help create the garden, it has been a surprising mix of those wanting to be involved
  • We have linked to other opportunities schools offer young people, for example Childrens’ University and Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme


‘Secret Gardeners has revealed unexpected and powerful impacts on staff, school environment and students, both catalyst and metaphor for so much more that is normally unseen, beautifully emotional and glorious…the hidden life of schools and those who inhabit them. 

Listening to the stories behind the gardens we hear of joyful collaboration, enthusiasm, determination and serendipity – tales of caretakers, students, grandparents, academics working in common purpose.  There is something about planting and the change that gardens can generate that celebrates life, and brings the disparate together. We have been lucky too with the boundless generosity of those donating objects and plants to create wonderfully zany and witty spaces — like futuristic, exotic stage sets transforming forgotten corners’  

Caroline Coates, Production Director, Helen Storey Foundation


‘I wish I could do projects like this all the time’


Related project: Growing imaginations: a half way review… Related project: The Secret Gardeners’ Project Related project: Royal Designers for Industry (RDI)