Ashleigh Primary School pupils learn the educational value of farming
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A Norfolk school has built a farm so pupils can learn about the agricultural world around them – but it is also teaching valuable life lessons about business, animal welfare and the food chain.
Ashleigh Primary School in Wymondham is caring for six orphan lambs as part of its smallholding, which also has chickens and polytunnels growing crops including tomatoes, salads, beans, chili peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, potatoes.
The children have taken on responsibilities for feeding the lambs, which have been loaned to the school until half term by nearby farmer and former pupil David Cross. At the evenings and weekend they are fed by a volunteer rota of staff and parents.
The school is also preparing for a farmers' market where produce from the farm will be sold, with all the proceeds from the sale of eggs and vegetables being re-invested to keep the venture running.
Teachers said Ashleigh Farm had been incorporated into the wider curriculum to extend its learning opportunities, so weighing out chicken food teaches pupils about maths, nurturing plants teaches them about biology, and buying seeds and selling the produce for a profit teaches them about entrepreneurial skills and business.
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It has also inspired art projects and one class was even given the opportunity to use the farm to learn about the media – holding a press conference to ask questions of their headteacher Sam Nixon and taking notes and photographs to be turned into a newspaper report.
Year 3 teacher Kevin Finch said: 'Memory is linked to enjoyment, so they are going to retain this for much more time than if I showed them the root structure of a plant on a whiteboard. They have seen it and smelled it, so they remember it.
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'Look at the area we live in. Agriculture is a major part of what these children need to learn about. It's not just farming, farms employ office workers and various other people who are not necessarily hands-on. So they need to have some understanding of agriculture and the hard work that goes into it. 'At the farmers' market, I want them to see that hard work pays off. You see the plants grow, and then they can think about earning money – and all that money goes back into the farm.'
Caleb Matthews, nine, from Greenland Avenue in Wymondham, said: 'I have learned a lot. My class has bottle-fed the lambs, but we also learned about other agricultural animals like calves. I learned that a calf is born at 35kg, which is about as heavy as one of us, we reckoned.
'A lot of my classmates were quite upset when they discovered the lambs would be eaten, but that's the way of life. We know they are given a happy life. If you don't understand about it, somebody can serve you up a plate of food and you won't know what it is.
'I also think it is a good opportunity to learn about plants. We went on a school trip to a different farm and I really enjoyed it because we got to try some sugar beet and we learned about other crops like barley and wheat. We saw some wheat when it was first sown.'