Students from in Pope John Paul II National School in Dublin have won their school a garden revamp worth €1,000, after being crowned the 2022 Big Grow champions.

Each school that took part in the The Big Grow competition, which is run by Grow It Yourself (GIY) and Innocent drinks, received food-growing kits throughout the spring.

They were encouraged to share their planting experiences online to be in with a chance to win the contest.

The students from third class in the Malahide school won for their creativity and ecological awareness in growing vegetables. The students reused old containers to reduce waste, and carried out numerous experiments throughout the process, which they demonstrated online.

Teacher Marissa Magner and students from Pope John Paul II National School. Photo: Mark Steadman

Class teacher Marissa Magner, who is a former student of the school, said that her pupils got a taste for the growing and couldn’t get enough.

“We grew peas, radish and mixed salad leaves and we started these from scratch in the paper cups on our windowsills, then transplanted them into bigger pots and then outside,” she said.

“The growing process has inspired the children to think about the actions of caring for the plants or indeed not. Asking what would happen if we planted the bulbs upside down, not water them? not give them light?

“This project has really got their minds and imaginations working.”

Magner also said that the children have taken these skills home with them and many have gotten their families and guardians involved by planting various fruits and vegetables outside the classroom. She said:

“Probably one of the very few plus sides of the pandemic is that our school children now really engage with sending me updates from home via the seesaw app, they share images of growing food all of the time.”

Close to 50,000 children have learned how to grow their own food throughout the competition, which has been running for 11 years. Runners up in the 2022 competition were Creagh National School in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway and Nagle Rice Primary School in Ballyoughtragh, Co. Kerry.

Students from Pope John Paul II National School. Photo: Mark Steadman

Presenting the award to the class, founder of GIY Michael Kelly said it was a joy to witness the enthusiasm of the children from the school as they showcased their progress online.

“The children learned the science of growing, but they also experienced the joy of growing and eating their own food.

“At GIY, we call this ‘food empathy’ and it means that these children will now have formed a deeper connection with their food and they very much care about where it comes from,” he said.