Six years ago, Reepham & District Rotary got involved in a new project at Reepham High School.
Humanities teacher Matt Willer had the idea of turning a derelict two acres at the bottom of the playing fields into an allotment. The plan was to involve pupils in growing food as a way of increasing their knowledge of food and their place in the environment.
Over the years, Reepham Rotarians have helped with construction, planting and promotion alongside other local groups and parents.
The idea has proved very popular with produce being used in school kitchens and local restaurants and sold in shops and markets.
Pupils take time in breaks and at weekends to tend crops and expand the range of produce grown.
A key emphasis has been on up-cycling and reuse of materials – both to keep costs down and also to increase the understanding of the impact of rubbish on the environment.
The allotment uses old baths, toilets, tyres and pallets along with some even weirder reused items that test pupil and volunteer ingenuity.
This has proved to be an excellent learning opportunity, particularly for students who struggle with structured learning.
The project has featured on local and national media, bringing in enquiries from other schools.
A key emphasis has been on up-cycling and reuse of materials – both to keep costs down and also to increase the understanding of the impact of rubbish on the environment.”
The allotment project was awarded Best Eco Secondary School in the Norwich and Norfolk Eco Awards for two years running and Matt Willer was the Royal Horticultural Society’s School Garden Champion of 2018.
In 2019, Matt took the decision to leave his teaching post and launch The Papillon Project to take the idea to other schools.
Today, he and his volunteer team are advising 20 schools throughout Norfolk – including sixth form colleges and pupil referral units.
A number of successfully established allotments are already producing their own produce. The latest details can be seen here.
This is a small educational charity with a single employee and some dedicated supporters. Volunteer help is essential and local community engagement vital.
Teachers may be enthusiastic, but they have little spare time, so the involvement of parents and local groups is essential from the outset.
Reepham Rotary has found the involvement very rewarding. All sorts of skills and experiences can be brought to bear on all the challenges of establishing and maintaining an allotment.
Reepham Rotary Club would recommend any fellow club to investigate the Papillon Project.
Matt Willer is an enthusiastic speaker who is well worth inviting to a meeting to explore how a club may be able to help. Matt can be contacted on email.