Badge support | Gardening and Farming Activity Badges
Happy National Allotments week! Working towards these gardening and farming badges is a great way to encourage your Beavers, Cubs or Scouts to engage with the process behind the food on their plates. Not only will they get some hands-on practical experience, they’ll reap the mental and physical benefits of producing something all by themselves, and develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world.
As a nation, our awareness of where food comes from is at all an all-time low. Whether they care for chickens at their community allotment, produce vegetables in a pot, or water herbs on the windowsill of their bedroom, engaging with nature is vital to a young person’s development in every way - strengthening them emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Read on to find out how you can help your young people to complete each award.
Beavers – Gardener Activity Badge
To start, download our Sherlock Gnomes themed badge checklist.
For requirements one and three, Beavers learn about the changing seasons, and about what plants need to grow, namely: water, light, air, a suitable temperature, and time. To help break down the science, you could incorporate some themed activities, experiments or songs into your programme planning. This stop-motion animation shows the process of a tiny seed growing into a magnificent flower, and will encourage Beavers to start thinking about what plants might need.
If your Beavers are itching to start gardening immediately, ask questions to encourage them to think about the season you’re in and what plants might need. Is it the right time of year? How much space is there? How much sunlight is there?
For requirement four, Beavers can look after a garden or allotment for two months. If your Beavers do not have access to a suitable green space, it may be worth doing some research to see if there’s a suitable scheme in your local community. Local parks, city farms and community gardens might have a space your Beavers can help to look after.. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens has a search function you can use to find groups in your area, and The Royal Horticultural Society runs a campaign to turn grey spaces into living, planted places. This could be the perfect opportunity to help Beavers work towards their My World Challenge Award.
Alternatively, Beavers can complete requirement four, growing at least three different plants in pots over a period of two months. They can do this at home or at Beavers. Herbs are a lower maintenance option for beginners, and if undertaken at home may be more accessible to Beavers who live in apartments or houses without private gardens. In most cases, all they’ll need is a windowsill, some sunlight and some seeds or cuttings to create something magic.
To complete requirement five, Beavers keep a record of their gardening journey, which could be a diary or scrapbook. What have they done to look after their plants? What changes have they noticed? To tell their story, they could write notes, draw pictures or take photographs.
Gardening can improve logic and reasoning. To expand the topic, you could include some extra activities like measuring rainfall or exploring the insect life around plants. Although these are not required to complete the badge, they will expand your Beaver’s understanding of how everything in the natural world fits together. If you do decide to pursue these, consider linking them to requirements four, five and six of the My Outdoors Challenge Award.
Cubs – Gardener Activity Badge
To start, download our Sherlock Gnomes themed badge checklist.
For requirement one, Cubs find out what seasons are best to grow a selection of six fruits and vegetables. Similarly to Beavers completing their Gardener Activity Badge, for requirement two they also learn how to use small gardening tools. This could be a good time to introduce ideas about the commercial production of food. How might the tools farmers’ use be different from the tools we use in our own gardens, for example?
For requirement three, Cubs can help to look after and grow at least one item in a garden or allotment, for a period of two months. If your Cubs do not have access to a suitable green space at home or the meeting place, it may be worth doing some research to see if there’s a scheme in your local community. Local parks, city farms and community gardens might have a space your Cubs can help to look after. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens has a search function you can use to find groups in your area, and The Royal Horticultural Society runs a campaign to turn grey spaces into living, planted places.
Alternatively, Cubs could experiment with growing plants at home, looking after at least two different fruits, vegetables or herbs for two months, on the windowsill or in plant pots. Mint is an ideal indoor herb to recommend to young people and parents who don’t know where to start. There’s almost no scenario in which this hardy plant won’t fight to stay alive, come rain or shine. Basil, oregano and sage are trickier to manage (though not impossible) while tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and runner beans are all solid choices for a beginner.
For requirement five, Cubs learn about mini-beasts and why they are good for our outdoor spaces. To find a bug hotel in your area, you could contact organisations like The Woodland Trust, as well as any local parks, community gardens, science museums, city farms or zoos who may have a suitable exhibit you could visit. Or, if your meeting place allows, you could build your very own bug hotel as a Cub Pack and work together to nurture it. If Cubs enjoyed this part of the badge, they may be interested in going on to do their Naturalist Activity Badge.
Minibeasts are fascinating creatures. Encouraging and studying them in the garden makes a real contribution to their conservation. To bring the topic to life, you could run an activity specifically on minibeasts and why they matter. This BBC bite size video gives a good introduction to the topic, and the Young People’s Trust For the Environment has a range of free resources you can download. You could also have a go at some additional minibeast crafts or puzzles.
Why not work together to make some bars of natural soap, adding herbs to the moulds? This could be one of their creative things Cubs do whilst working towards their Our Skills Challenge Award. Lemongrass, rosemary and mint are all delicious-smelling additions, and if your Cubs want to bring in some dried flowers (such as lavender or rose petals), those work splendidly too. You could even sell your soap as part of your next bric-a-brac or fundraising event. Doing so will help Cubs understand the economic value of growing their own produce.
If you’re going on camp around the same time as the harvest and will have access to a kitchen or campfire, you could cook some of their fresh produce for everyone to enjoy in a meal or snack. Cubs don’t need to cook a complex meal. They could simply sprinkle some homegrown herbs on top of the campfire pizza, or add some garden-grown tomatoes to the salad.
If using a campfire to prepare the feast, you could easily tie this in with their Backwoods Cooking Activity Badge. Showing how their hard work in the garden can directly translate to the table will make your Cubs feel proud, and hopefully encourage them to keep up their green-fingered habit long after the badge has been completed. If Cubs enjoyed the cooking and are bursting to learn even more, they might want to build up their skills by completing their Chef Activity Badge.
Scouts – Farming Activity Badge
Although there isn’t a gardening badge available for Scouts, the Farming Activity Badge is a great option for Scouts who are keen to learn about the process behind the food on our plates. Option two of the badge is most similar to the gardening badges on offer for the younger sections, while options one and three link to broader themes about where our food comes from.
For requirement one, Scouts learn about the different types of farming in the UK. This BBC Bitesize map shows the distribution of farming in the UK, explaining how various physical and human factors determine which type of farming takes place in a particular area.
For requirement two, Scouts investigate the practices of a farm of their choosing. To begin, they can use an Internet search engine or visit their local library to find out about farming in their local area or further afield. If they focus on farms closer to home, could they arrange a supervised visit to a farm to learn more? Could they visit a farmers market with their family to carry out research? Could they contact a farmer to ask them how they do their job? If looking at farming in the local area, this could count towards their World Challenge Award, where they investigate an aspect of local community life. To complete the requirement, they should make a note of practices relating to livestock, crops, cultivation, rotation, machinery and labour force. They may want to keep their notes in a notebook, to make a poster, or to prepare a short presentation.
For requirement three, Scouts have to find some pictures to demonstrate changes that have occurred in farming over a number of years. Changes Scouts could explore include: the intensification of farming (eg farmers growing high-yield crops, using fertilisers and pesticides, and keeping animals indoors), the diversification of farming (eg farmers doing other things to increase their income, like teaching others about their trade or getting involved in tourism), and the use of hydroponics (eg growing produce in artificial environments, like tomatoes in glasshouses and salmon in fish farms).
To encourage your section to start thinking about where their food comes from, you could ask questions to find out what they already know. Are there any particular products that are native to parts of the UK? Can your Scouts name any of these? You could bring in a few different products or ingredients from home, and challenge Scouts to guess where they are grown or produced (eg bananas from Colombia, coffee from Ethiopia, leeks from Wales). You could talk about how some products have protected names to show they are native and unique to a particular area, such as Scottish wild salmon, Jersey royal potatoes, and Cornish pasties. The experience might inspire them to pursue the Farming and Chef badges.
For requirement one, Scouts cultivate an area of garden or an allotment for a length of time agreed with the leadership team. If your Scouts do not have access to a suitable green space at home or the meeting place, it may be worth doing some research to see if there’s a suitable scheme in your local community. Local parks, city farms and community gardens might have a space your Scouts can help to look after. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens has a search function you can use to find groups in your area, and The Royal Horticultural Society runs a campaign to turn grey spaces into living, planted places. Just like Beavers and Cubs, you and your Scouts could promise to turn a grey space around.
During their time caring for the garden or allotment, Scouts complete requirement two by growing three kinds of hardy annual flower, three kinds of vegetable, and two kinds of bulbs, herbaceous plants, flowering shrubs or rose. To help them, you could direct them to the Royal Horticultural Society’s A-Z guide on vegetables that can be grown in the UK and herbaceous plants that can be grown in the UK. Some hardy annual flowers that are great for beginners include pot marigold, sunflowers and tree mallow.
For requirement three, Scouts keep a record of what they have done. Keeping a diary, scrapbook, or blog is a good way to do this. They could include written observations, photos, drawings or records (measuring the heights of flowers, for example).
This option allows Scouts to keep livestock for at least three months. They may already have relatives working in farming, or look after livestock at home.
If Scouts choose to look after birds or farm animals, they should learn about how they are responsibly housed, fed and bred. They should discuss the economic uses of animals, show how to handle animals safely, and learn about animal welfare.
If Scouts choose to manage a hive, they could talk to the section about how they found the process, and perhaps even let everyone try some when they bring in their sample.
If you’d like to learn more about bee keeping as a section , it’s worth investigating if there are any local experts who might like to visit. The British Beekeepers Association has a search tool you can use to find your local association. In England, are over 75 local area associations who serve their local community with support and education, so they may be able to help you arrange a talk (please note that some speakers charge fee, while others ask for a token donation). Members based in Wales can contact the Welsh Beekeepers Association or the National Beekeeping Centre Wales. Members based in Scotland can contact the Scottish Beekeepers Association. Even if these organisations are not able to provide talks, they may be able to give advice to Scouts who are interested in managing their own hive, or point you in the direction of some age-appropriate learning resources