A group of students from Clifton Hunter High School made a study visit to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park as part of their mini-gardens practical project last month.

As part of the project, the seven students, five from Year 8, one from Year 9 and one from Year 11, designed and created their own mini-gardens with guidance from Department of Education School Inclusion specialist teachers Nigel Cox and June South-Robinson. Mr. Cox and Ms. South-Robinson led the visit to the park on March 28, with the support of school counselor Susan Lees.

All the students taking part in the project work with the School Inclusion Team, which is part of the Cayman Islands Behaviour Support Service. The service provides specialist support in all the government schools and works with students who the school feels will benefit from some additional input in order to thrive and achieve their potential.

Mr. Cox told the Cayman Compass that the students’ involvement in the mini-gardens project had been prompted by an invitation from the Garden Club of Grand Cayman to participate in its 60th annual show.

During the visit to the Botanic Park, the students met with park manager John Lawrus, who gave an informative introduction to several aspects of the park and a practical demonstration of how plants are helped to develop in the plant nursery.

“The mini-garden project was used as an opportunity for students to work in teams to show their creative and practical skills, whilst developing their self-management skills, organizational skills and boosting their self-confidence,” said Mr. Cox.

“This fits … alongside the regular group work and one-to-one work which the students undertake with the specialist staff from the [service].”

Mr. Cox noted that this is the first time that a group from Clifton Hunter has become involved in such a project.

“We seized the opportunity to partner with the Botanic Park, who provided many of the plants we used,” said Mr. Cox. During the visit, the students were shown areas of the park, which provided inspiration for their own creations, and they were able to learn important basic scientific principles, which will help them to care for their own mini-gardens as they continue to grow.

Clifton Hunter students tour the Botanic Park nursery with park manager John Lawrus.

“Importantly, students have also learned about the importance of caring for the plants’ natural habitats in order to support the local ecosystems,” said Mr. Cox.

“Material used by the students to make containers for the mini-gardens, with a little help from technology teachers at the school, were entirely recycled or re-used, which added to the environmentally friendly message of the project.”

The five mini-gardens were entered into the Garden Club of Grand Cayman’s Children’s Competition at the Club’s 60th anniversary show, which was held at South Sound Community Centre on March 31 and April 1.

Mr. Cox said visiting the Garden Club Show was also an ideal opportunity to practice the social skills the students have been learning as part of their school’s “Respect 24/7” initiative, which is part of the Education Department’s strategy for Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports, for which both Mr. Cox and Ms. South-Robinson are area coaches.

All the hard work paid off as the Clifton Hunter students were awarded two first prizes, one third prize and two Highly Commended ribbons for their mini-gardens.

“Both the school and the park are keen to develop this partnership, and next term the students will be making further visits to the park in connection with the development of the park’s exciting large-scale Children’s Garden,” said Mr. Cox.

“All the students say they have enjoyed the experience and they are looking forward to working in partnership with the Botanic Park on the Children’s Garden. We are also hoping to continue our link with the Garden Club and are exploring possibilities in that regard. In the meantime, ideas for next year’s mini-gardens are already being discussed.”