IH Belfast's Environmental Project

in 2023 IH Belfast was awarded a grant from the IH World Foundation to support an environmental project. This is their story ...

Our Environmental Project

IH Belfast wanted to explore the possibility of introducing some plants into our patio area to help promote insect life in what is a very urban area. We would also like to do this as a talking point for language classes. Ideally, we would like to plant edible plants - like a mini-allotment - in the hope that we can also increase student exposure to 'growing their own'. Herbs such a thyme, mint and rosemary are fabulous for the aforementioned insects and do well in our climate - as well as fennel and lettuce! Finally, we would like to introduce a fairly mature potted fruit tree as a feature tree. We feel this would add a relaxed atmosphere to the area and create a yummy focal point :) Dwarf apple, plumb and damson trees would be a hardy option for Northern Ireland.

What we planned to spend the money on: A mature feature tree, self-watering planters, herb seeds.

At the start of the project

We started the project with a colourful but uninviting patio area. By the end of the winter, everything out here has been windswept, snowed on, rained on and iced over! There was no plant life or greenery, only a few empty planters and plant pots.

Actioning the plan

We decided to clean up the patio decking and furniture first, and then purchase all the herbs and equipment we needed to action our plan. We wanted to incorporate the actual planting of the herbs and trees into a lesson, so we needed to prepare the space for this.

We set a date for our student ‘planting session’ – Tuesday 11th April. As part of this, the teaching staff put together a powerpoint on the herbs that we would be planting (See attached powerpoint). These slides were also made into laminated cards that could be added to the pots of each herb after planting.



The lesson was a lot of fun! We talked about the properties of each herb, including superstitions attached to them and medicinal uses. There was a lot of recipe sharing – everyone had a meal that they enjoyed which used one herb or another. We were able to try some plum jam, peppermint tea and rosemary focaccia as well – to really cement the idea of garden to plate! After this, we talked through the steps of planting and then got stuck in.


Teachers then went back to class to discuss vocab and grammar used during the active learning session.

We were left with a lovely potted garden which will continue to grow and bloom this spring and provide a nurturing space and a haven for insects!

Joanna Unsworth, IH Belfast 2023