Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, Norfolk Showground, Dereham Road, Norwich, NR5 0TT

Educational livestock project offers schools across Norfolk and Suffolk a unique hands-on experience.

16/03/22

Helping young people learn about livestock.

The Food and Farming Discovery Trust has teamed up with Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Chapelfield Veterinary Partnership and Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association to help young people learn once again about livestock. This hands-on opportunity will offer schools the chance to look after ewes and their lambs at their school, for one whole week.

The project, sponsored by Clan Trust, is aimed at giving children, ranging from Reception to High School age, the chance to learn about animal husbandry and to engage schools in food and farming education.

Fourteen schools across Norfolk and Suffolk will be taking part in this project from Monday 21st March to Friday 25th March; Carleton Rode Primary School, Caston Primary School, St Martha’s RC Primary, King’s Lynn, Fred Nicholson School, Dereham, Aldborough Primary School, Hickling C of E Infant School
Coltishall Primary School, Valley Primary Academy, West Earlham Infant & Nursery, The Clare School
Harford Manor School, The Wherry School, Red Oak Primary School, Lowestoft and Gunton Primary Academy.

This year Gail Sprake, from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and the FFDT Board of Trustees has been the driving force behind the project, liaising with schools and farmers to ensure the success of the project. Gail has been overwhelmed with the level of response and as expected, the project is once again oversubscribed.

Participating schools will be provided with everything they need to care for and look after the animals and will be given a comprehensive briefing, to ensure that they adhere to the very best health and safety and husbandry practise. A variety of ideas on how to incorporate the project into the curriculum will also be provided, to help schools make the most of their livestock visit.

Shannon Woodhouse has recently joined the Food and Farming Discovery Trust team as Trust Manager. Shannon previously worked as a research scientist at the John Innes Centre, after completing a PhD in plant biology. Throughout her PhD Shannon was involved in numerous outreach and public engagement activities to encourage young people to consider careers in STEM subjects and has a passion for education. Shannon hopes to expand the reach of the Food and Farming Discovery Trust and is excited to be getting to work on the Trust’s new online Discovery Hub, which will become available later in the year.

Shannon Woodhouse, Trust Manager of the Food and Farming Discovery Trust, says:

“I am thrilled to be joining the Food and Farming Discovery Trust in time for the 2022 Learn About Livestock Project. We believe this exciting opportunity will offer pupils the chance to witness farming first hand and provide them with a rewarding learning experience, whilst offering teachers a unique way to deliver parts of the curriculum. With the positive feedback we received previously, we are delighted to have been able to extend this opportunity out to more schools within Norfolk and Suffolk, to allow even more children to participate in this memorable learning experience.”

This year the sheep are kindly being provided by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust East Anglia Support Group, which includes Jordan Stone & Beth Chapman, Melsop Farm Park, Gail & Michael Sprake, Meens Farm, All Saints, Halesworth, Dameon Layt, Salhouse, Tricia & Les Newman, Carleton Rode and Briony Mackenzie, King’s Lynn. These farmers have been instrumental in ensuring that animal movement licences have been acquired and will support the delivery of the animals to the schools, thereby strengthening relationships between schools and their local farms.

Jade Hunter, Deputy Headteacher from West Earlham Infant and Nursery School who are taken part in the project previously, says:

“The ‘Learn about Livestock’ project provides our children with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the lamb and ewe over the course of the week. The opportunity not only gives our children the chance to learn about caring for the animals, but it also improves their confidence in exploring new experiences, supports their communication when talking about their learning and gives them the chance to really nurture the animals. We build this opportunity into all areas of our curriculum to ensure it has real purpose and meaning for the children.”

Matt Frost, from Harford Manor School who is a new participant in the project, says:

“Here at Harford Manor, we are currently engaged in a whole school topic all about ‘farming’ so participating in the Learn About Livestock project creates a perfect opportunity to quite literally, bring our learning to life! We hope that by taking part in the project, many of our students, who may not have been able to access farm visits off site, will be able to engage in first hand experiences whilst caring for livestock. Many of our classes will also be exploring every aspect of sheep farming, from woolly fleeces to Shepherd’s Pies and beyond. We cannot wait to meet our visitors next week!”

Julie Hatfield, from The Clare School, a Specialist ‘Physical and Sensory’ Complex Needs School in Norwich who are taken part in the project previously, says:

“We are really excited to be part of this project again. The children gained so much from the experience in 2019. Very often, wheelchairs can present a physical barrier but being able and encouraged to hold the lambs on their laps, they were able to be really hands-on with them, It is a very sensory experience especially for our most complex and visually impaired pupils, feeling the texture and warmth, hearing them bleat, being able to feel all their physical features aids their understanding in a way that no other means can.
For others, as well as bringing learning to ‘life’, it was just very calming. Being able to sit in the pen with the lambs and ‘be’ was fantastic for their mental health and well-being, especially important in the current climate.

We have a variety of cross curriculum activities planned throughout the week and have, once again, invited a local spinner into school to comb and spin fleece to create our own wool. This is such a fantastic opportunity!”

Julie Smith, from Gunton Primary says:

“Gunton Primary Academy are very much looking forward to welcoming new residents to the school next week.  We feel the ewe and her offspring will offer our children a hugely valuable insight into farm life and the care and well-being of an animal.  Given the limited opportunities and experiences our children have had over the last two years, I cannot think of a better way of engaging our children with endless learning possibilities and helping them to create lasting memories.”

This project forms part of the Food and Farming Discovery Trust’s wider programme of events and initiatives run throughout the year, which help promote focused educational learning about food, farming and the countryside, to young people across Norfolk.

For more information on the activities and educational opportunities available through the Food and Farming Discovery Trust, please look out for the launch of the new Discovery Hub and in the meantime please go to www.rnaa.org.uk to learn more.

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