SAVING the environment is second nature to St Francis College, a progressive private school in Kouga, where pupils love getting their hands dirty while they learn.

The small, farm-based institution is a recognised Eco-School and received a coveted International Green Flag several years ago from the Foundation for Environmental Education, following a rigorous seven-step programme.

Gardening is an important part of the academic time-table – and pupils recently unveiled an upgraded, expanded vegetable garden on campus.

Every week, the Grade 4, 5 and 6 pupils roll up their sleeves and dig, plant, grow and harvest a variety of edible produce.

An integral part of their Eco-School activities, gardening time not only provides a chance to grow lettuces and carrots but also facilitates outdoor learning.

Biology gets real as plant lifecycles are discussed, life lessons in nutrition make sense as organic vegetables are tasted, maths becomes child’s play as worm fertiliser is diluted from the rain water tank and a healthy mind is nourished with fresh air, hard work and time spent in the garden’s stone labyrinth.

Future plans include a 100% bottle-built greenhouse, a chill-out area for hard-working pupils and the sale of vegetables, seedlings and worm fertiliser at local markets.

The garden’s growth was helped along with generous donations from parents and sponsors, including St Francis Brewery, First Choice Dairy, Hi-Q tyres and the local stables.