Reading time: 3 minutes. Free member opportunity to advance a rich curriculum: FaceTime a Farmer
Carl Edwards, director education and public engagement, Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) writes.
How will we feed our future population? Are fish fingers made of chicken? Two very different questions asked by young people, but two questions that show the importance of the need for farming, food and the environment being part of young people’s education.
How can we engage with young people and enable them to understand that what is grown ‘out there’ in the fields (or, through more modern farming techniques, hydroponically) ends up on the supermarket shelves and ultimately on their plates?
LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) merged in 2017 to lead the way in ensuring our young people have a clear understanding of where food comes from, the farming industry at large and its impact on the environment. In 2016-2017 we worked with over 20,000 young people, engaging with 721 schools.
The farming industry is rapidly evolving
There have been many changes, for example:
- Driverless tractors have been around for years, long before driverless car technology was promoted in mainstream society’s consciousness.
- Flying drones monitor our crops’ health and needs.
- Farms use technology that can monitor how much a cow has eaten, how far it has walked, when it ‘likes’ to be milked, how long it has been sitting down for (this is in regular use at a lot of farms).
Most of our young people – indeed most adults including teachers and school leaders – are not aware of these developments.
The job of a teacher arguably is to prepare our students for a healthy and successful future, whether that be academic, practical or life skills, or even preparing them for future careers. How can young people and teachers extend their horizons and take a step into the seemingly unknown world on our doorstep, in our rural societies or surrounding the urban spaces which we live?
Linking with schools
We have been working with ITT institutions to develop trainee teachers’ skills and the confidence to plan, run and evaluate effective farm visits. Last year we worked with 1,906 teachers, both as trainees and in CPD for established teachers and leaders. We are increasing our work in this area and would be most eager to hear from other groups, such as SCITT groups, who would like us to deliver CPD in how to deliver the national curriculum or exam specifications in innovative, inspiring and engaging ways using the farming world as a vehicle for delivery.
Feedback from teachers:
‘We have seen some great long-term impact on student-teacher relationships. Being together in the countryside really helped to break down barriers and, four months on, we see stronger ongoing relationships between all who took part. We thoroughly enjoyed the event and are planning a seasonal planting event for the near future.’
Michelle Howard, Rivington and Blackrod High School (SSAT member)
‘The support has had a lasting impact on our school’
Pauline Burgmans, Ryelands Primary School
‘When talking about Fairtrade in other countries I have tried to link it to our farmers’ struggles with fair trade in this country. The children were surprised that farmers in this country could struggle as much as farmers in South America, Africa etc.’
Trainee Teacher Response to the FACE Impact Report July 2015
Hopefully this will bring the agricultural world direct into the classroom and ultimately showcase the modern, high-tech agricultural industry which is eager to engage with young people, the future generation of their industry
FaceTime a Farmer
We would like to open this opportunity to facilitate either a FaceTime or Skype call between schools and farmers, locally, nationally and internationally. The idea is that a named teacher would contact the farmer and discuss areas that young people might be covering that week, from a variety of subject areas and age ranges. Teachers could give the farmers questions that their students might have. Or even point to national curricula or exam specifications that they might want to cover through these conversations. Or just open their students’ eyes to the world of food, farming and the environment.
The farmers will all be current working farmers who have a passion about what they do and for engaging with young people. Perhaps they might even inspire some of your students to consider a role in the agricultural industry? Further information.
Get in touch with LEAF to arrange a FaceTime or Skype call with a farmer direct to your classroom:
- Contact: Janet@face-online.org.uk
- Website: https://www.face-online.org.uk/
- Further resources: http://www.countrysideclassroom.org.uk/
LEAF are looking to start this initiative in March 2018 onwards; and will be offering an online training event for all teachers and farmers who wish to take part.
Read more about a rich curriculum on the SSAT blog: Courageous leadership and the school curriculum