Show menu

taxonomy list

Learn farm science through lunch

Research into an arable crop may not sound that interesting for a group of children. But add a little of the sweet end-product to raw chocolate and suddenly you’ve the attention of a class of young children – and their teachers – and the makings of a great way to learn farm science through lunch.

Ches Broom shares how British Beet Research Organisation joins in some  lunchbox learning to show Farming is Magic.

Linking farming science to lunch

Ches Broom, BBRO (second right) and team ready to show Farming is Magic

Ches Broom, BBRO (second right) and team ready to show Farming is Magic

BBRO (British Beet Research Organistaion) staff had great fun taking part in the Lunchbox Science programme with a team from SAW (Science, Art and Writing) and FACE (Farming Agriculture and Countryside Education). We were tasked with linking the science at the BBRO with something in the lunchbox of children at St Michaels Junior School in Bowthorpe, Norwich.

Making a learning journey

Learning through hands on science about food and farming

Learning through hands on science about food and farming

We took the youngsters on a journey from seed to sugar. We showed them the Farming is Magic sugar beet film so they could see what the crop looks like in full leaf in the field. They could also hear straight from sugar beet specialist, Dr Mark Stevens, about the challenges farmers face while growing this sweet treat.

Classroom activity

We know that children learn best through experience so we were all ready with a whole range of activities. The children searched beet leaves for aphids and predators, having a close up view through microscopes.  They then filled test tubes with solution to grow their own sugar crystals before having a taste test of three different chocolates to decide which had the most sugar, unsurprisingly the sweetest chocolate was also the most popular.

school children using art and poems to explain science

Farming is Magic: school children creatively use art and poetry to share what they’ve learned.

Learn science of farming through creativity

The SAW team then helped the youngsters to write poems and draw pictures

based around the mornings activities.  Maybe it was the chocolate that got the creative juices going but, whatever it was, the youngsters had certainly taken it all in. From giant aphids to jaw-crunching ladybirds the young people had certainly enjoyed getting to grips with science.

Using props to explain farming

People passing the fields farmed by Andrew Francis will see the summer task of irrigation in full swing. “As farmers we have a responsibility to explain why and how we are using water wisely”, he says, “and I don’t just use facts and figures to do that. I am using props to explain farming to my visitors – whether children or adults – to be amazed by”. Here are some of those top props as seen in Andrew’s film.

Andrew Francis Elveden Farms

Andrew Francis – all propped up to share the magic of farming potatoes at Elveden Farms

Potted Props

Alongside rows of healthy potatoes Andrew has pots of potatoes denied water. The difference is dramatic: drooping, stressed leaves. Digging up the developing roots clearly demonstrates the devastating effect water shortage has on the number and size of tubers.

Soil samples

Letting his Breckland soil run through his fingers shows how soft it is so perfect for growing potatoes and other vegetables but easily dried out. “I have a sample of different soil from a few miles away to show how it is stickier and dries out less quickly but is no good for a potato plant to grow in.”

Watering Can

The big irrigation gear gives the wow factor to watching visitors. But it’s only when Andrew brings out his tiny green watering can – and waters a plant  –  that the precision possible and necessary on a huge scale makes sense.

Having lots of Bottle

Gallons, litres, millions – all sorts of measures can be mentioned. “I like to scale it right down. I bring out the amount of water that each of my potato plants needs every week” says Andrew ” and lines up the bottle full of water to do just that.

Potato Power

But at the end of the visit it all has to come back to what’s produced by the team on the farm with all this wise water use all season long. “I have a box of fresh dug, perfect, little potatoes for my visitors. That, and using props to explain farming, brings my story back to the food we all want to eat and enjoy.”

Number crunching to breakfast munching

Connecting a farmed field to a favourite food is a brilliant thing to do. Phil Jarvis, a farmer who works for the Allerton Project in Leicestershire, wanted to make a link between his crop and the most important meal of the day: breakfast.

Using a square metre or a mini field Phil did some serious number crunching and reveals his figures in a short film made in one of his wheat fields.

Number crunching for breakfast munching

Phil has calculated that in each mini field or square metre of planted wheat it takes 300 days, 1250 hours of sunshine, 109 buckets of water and the wheat plants’ 27,000 metres of roots to produce a kilo of wheat or 20,000 grains – which is enough to make 28 breakfasts.

To sum up (no pun intended) what works so well is that he has the numbers and the story-telling to help visitors to the farm make the connection between the field and the foods they enjoy.

Follow on from fantastic numbers

A film of a good idea can be the start. To go with this Kellogg’s breakfast minifield there is also a downloadable poster with questions to quiz the visitors about the key fascinating facts they’ve heard and seen.

Now that’s magic.

Connecting farming a field to feeding a family

David Jones, Morley Farms Manager, uses props such as the square metre field to make the connection between farming and everyday foods

“Often when people think about visiting a farm they expect to see chickens, lambs, piglets etc. Many farms – including mine – don’t have any of those but have large fields of wheat, oilseed rape and barley. When I started hosting farm visits I wondered how I could make my farm interesting to my guests.

Connecting everyday foods to the fields of farmers

Connecting everyday foods to the fields of farmers

If a group of farmers come to this farm it is easy to talk about tonnes of wheat, hectares, fungicides etc. With other groups it is good to talk about farming on a smaller scale that we can all identify with. This is why a square metre works.

Growing 300 plants in square metre that produces 1kg of wheat, or a large loaf of bread or three big boxes of breakfast cereal is easy to follow. I see peoples’ faces light up as they realise what it is all about and that crops from their county are in the products in their cupboards.

With many groups I ask “If I sow seeds in September and then harvest the crop in August then how many months is it growing for?”. The point they get is that it takes a long time – and a lot of work – to grow the crop.”