Schools urged to use farming lessons to teach vital STEM subjects

Schoolchildren learning about agriculture at a farm

Farming can help schoolchildren learn about science, technology, engineering and maths, says an NFU report - Credit: NFU

Farming should be brought into more classrooms to help teach crucial science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) lessons to children, according to an industry report.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) says agriculture can provide real-world examples to help engage children with key subjects at a crucial age, as well as showing the potential for STEM-based careers.

Its report highlights the educational value of agriculture, which is directly linked to many topics within the STEM curriculum - from plant life cycles and animal habitats to food chains and precision technology.

And it says farming case studies have already been successfully used to help children learn and apply key skills in "stimulating, practical, real-life situations".

NFU East Anglia director Gary Ford said: “Farming provides an incredibly innovative and exciting way to promote STEM learning in a way the younger generation might not have seen before. It’s a subject every child can relate to.

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“Science, technology, engineering and maths are all subjects deeply embedded in the sector. From soil science to plant breeding techniques and cutting-edge precision engineering, agriculture is in a great position to provide real-life examples of STEM in action and help children learn these subjects in an inspiring and engaging environment.

“Our education team has spent time working with schools to help teachers deliver all-important STEM subjects using real-life farming examples. It’s been hugely rewarding, with countless teachers telling us of grassroot level triumphs, as pupils discover a whole new subject area that was previously uninspiring to them.

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“Its success demonstrates why government should recognise the role of agriculture in inspiring STEM learning, to help connect pupils with the country’s farming heritage, to build their understanding of food and how it’s produced, and to help promote STEM as the route to a viable and exciting career.”

Pig farmer Ben Spurgeon talking to pupils from Barnham Primary School, near Thetford

Pig farmer Ben Spurgeon talking to pupils from Barnham Primary School, near Thetford - Credit: Amy Arnold

Amy Arnold is headteacher at Barnham Primary School, in the village near Thetford, which has struck up an educational partnership with the neighbouring farm at the Euston Estate.

She said: "It has enormous value for the children to be able to see first-hand, real-life experiences of food production and seeing that science, technology, engineering and maths all intertwined with each other within something so important.

"The value is immeasurable in engaging and motivating the children, and giving them some choices for their own futures, maybe as an agronomist or an agricultural engineer.

"There is so much information out there and so many initiatives to bring farming into the classroom, even when it is difficult from some locations to get children out onto the farm."

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