Norfolk pupils get hands-on knowledge about the Science of Farming
PUBLISHED: 15:04 13 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:18 13 March 2018
Copyright: Archant 2018
A "hands-on" experience with animals, crops and technology brought more than 160 schoolchildren to the Norfolk Showground to learn about the Science of Farming.
Coinciding with British Science Week, the new educational event for Year 5 pupils was run by the Food and Farming Discovery Trust, which is supported by industry organisations including the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA).
Eight Norfolk schools took part in the inaugural event: Aldborough Primary, Ashill Primary, Clenchwarton Primary, Eaton Hall Specialist Academy, Gayton Primary, Rollesby Primary, Trowse Primary, and Valley Primary Academy.
Pupils took part in a series of 40-minute interactive lessons designed to explain the process of food production, focusing on the science and computing objectives in the national curriculum.
• Lamb health checks with Chapelfield Vets and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, including a lambing simulator.
• Soil testing with the Holkham Estate, looking at worms and “mini-beasts”, testing the chemistry and pH of the soil, and learning how sheep can help correct nitrate deficiencies.
• An interactive talk with north Norfolk farmer Tim Papworth about growing potatoes on an industrial scale, and the chemical changes that occur during cooking.
• Drone programming with Yellobric, and learning how unmanned aerial vehicles can be used to map and analyse crops.
• The “evolution of wheat” with the Norwich-based SAW (Science Art and Writing) Trust, explaining the role of DNA and genetics in plant breeding, and allowing the children to compare modern wheat grains with ancient goat grass.
Former teacher Tony Bellinger is education project manager for the Food and Farming Discovery Trust, which was founded in 2017 to act as a hub for food education in Norfolk, and to develop inspiring new activities.
He said: “The idea behind this event was to have a ‘hands-on’, engaging day where we teach children about food and farming.
“We have got the lambs, but also the food and the cooking and the soil and how farmers use their animals, so we have got the whole range here, from growing to cooking.
“At the Spring Fling (on April 10) they are free to wander round and pick their activities. But I wanted this to have more structured mini-lessons, with set times for each activity, and it all links to the national curriculum. Because of how hands-on it is, you can see how engaged the children are, and they are quite receptive at this age.
“I heard one child say: ‘Potatoes? That’s like the chips you get at McDonald’s’. Right there is the reason why we are doing this.”
Dr Jenni Rant, project manager of the SAW Trust, said there was a varied range of understanding within the age group. “I asked about DNA and one child said it is ‘the building blocks of life’, which is quite impressive, but at the other end of the scale you have got someone who says they have never eaten a plant,” she said.
Among the educators at the event was Doug Simpson, a Year 5 teacher at Eaton Hall Specialist Academy in Norwich, which caters for students with mental health problems and learning difficulties.
“For many children, it is hands-on education that they need,” he said. “You can have children sitting in front of a screen or a teacher telling them something, but watching the boys doing drone programming you could see the concentration and the engagement. They get a bit of learning but they are teaching themselves, because it is hands-on.
On the importance of teaching young children about the origins of their food, Mr Simpson added: “So many children don’t even think about where their sausages come from, or what a bag of chips is made from. They just accept it because it is there, and so they don’t think about it. Something like this is good because it puts them in touch with where things come from and how things are made.”