This vegetable farm project, led by Benji Sliwka and a dedicated team of Year 13 students is a wonderful example of Tanglin's core values of Respect, Responsibility, and Purpose in action. Through endeavour and perseverance, they have provided a legacy for the Tanglin community, which will be tended to and enjoyed by students across age groups for years to come.
Started in Y12 through the CAS Project Change Group (where the aim is to develop a project that addresses one of the Sustainable Development Goals) and self-driven through Year 13 by Benji and Alex Salov, with help from Alvaro Cucala, Jacques Mouret and Micaela Lai – the young plants housed in these DIY upcycled planters will provide watermelons, tomatoes, lemon balm, rocket, peppermint and cabbage to the Junior MasterChef Programme.
"This project really means a lot to me as it literally has my blood, sweat and tears put into it," explains Benji. "The SDG we chose was Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and this is my passion; I will be studying Environment and Sustainability at Cornell University this coming fall.
"But the project was not without its setbacks. From selecting a wood supplier and organising delivery during school days, to finding a suitable location, drilling and hammering wood planks, and the eventual planting – there were significant challenges. That's even without the interruptions of exams and Covid restrictions that impacted the project in so many ways, from delivery dates through construction.
For sustainable materials, we got creative: we saw the water trays outside DT during a meeting with Mr Ridley and Mr Foakes and thought they were perfect for upcycling. We kept the metal frames so we could dig the trays into the ground and drilled drainage holes into the bottom and sides, then surrounded them with wood planks to make them more aesthetically pleasing, which turned out to be harder than expected!
"I'm very proud of the result; I hope that it will be a part of school for a long time to come. Ms Bibbings suggested the idea of involving Junior MasterChef, which we immediately loved, as the students can use the fresh produce in the kitchen. Another idea that was very important to me, was to incorporate this project within the sustainability focus of the Infant School curriculum.
"Mrs Dawson met with us to discuss how to get them involved, suggestions included Infant children decorating the wood planks, building scarecrows and tending the plants. We would still love these ideas to come to fruition and with the help of Mr Foakes, Mr Ridley and Mrs Randall (our Project Change CAS supervisor), I'm sure we will find students who can carry this project on next year when we are at uni.
"A big thank you to Mr Ridley who has been incredibly supportive and I'm sure is tired of seeing my name pop up in his inbox, Ms Randall for helping to get the initiative underway, Mr Foakes for supporting and reassuring us this whole time and to the TTS Foundation for their funding and the moral support of Mr Parker's encouraging messages!"
We would also like to thank Benji and his team, who have not only created a vegetable farm, but also a roadmap for whole-community involvement in this project. The planters are located outside the Senior School Office.