This week’s blog article comes from Hannah Martin from Farming and Countryside Education
What is the best way to help young people learn more about the natural environment? Who can share with them a love of food and farming? There are many inspiring farmers and educators at countryside locations who host school visits and take children on the farm to fork journey. Job done? Not at all. We need to take a step further back – who introduces children to these exciting outdoor places of learning? In many cases, the answer is teachers. Farming & Countryside Education www.face-online.org.uk is taking a step even further back as we see the key to unlocking further understanding could lie with trainee teachers.
Over the last 3 years FACE have been running an Initial Teacher Training Course for University and College students studying for their PGCE or Education BSc. The course is accredited by the Open College Network and the majority of courses have been funded by DairyCo, a sector of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board. Trainee teachers learn how to incorporate food, farming and the countryside into the national curriculum, receive an active farm tour demonstrating how a farm offers a wealth of education opportunities, develop an understanding of the farming industry, discuss ideas and resources, and learn how to plan and organise safe, purposeful class visits outside the classroom.
“I personally feel that this course was very helpful in exploring outdoor learning. The staff were engaging and supportive. This was a unique experience which I feel has been worthwhile. I will use this knowledge through-out my placement and professional practice.”
We’ve always received great feedback on the day, but do courses such as ours really lead to more confident and informed teachers in the long term? We decided to contact every trainee teacher we have worked with in the last 3 years to find out about their teaching experiences. Our longitudinal study gave us some insights into many areas of teaching (a full summary can be found in our online Impact Report), one of which was teacher confidence.
Of the survey respondents who took part in our course 1 year ago:
79% are confident in finding relevant resources
71% are confident in arranging a farm trip
79% are confident in linking food, farming or the countryside to the curriculum
Of the survey respondents who took part in our course 2 – 3 years ago:
66% are confident in finding relevant resources
53% are confident in arranging a farm trip
78% are confident in linking food, farming or the countryside to the curriculum
Why does our course build confidence? We think that experiencing the farm environment first hand, meeting engaging farmers and sharing ideas and experiences with those that have run many farm visits before helps to break down any perceived barriers that trainee teachers may have had.
“I feel that I am now more aware and gained more confidence in how to plan a trip to a farm and just how important it is for children to know about farming and where their food comes from.”
“The course was very useful in providing information on arranging trips to farms as I would have found this a bit daunting otherwise. The links to the curriculum subjects were very useful.”
“The course really opened my eyes up to the possibilities of taking learning outdoors, and also the vast amount of educational knowledge that can be received from a visit to a farm “
“I feel that I will not avoid trips to farms, which I would have done previously due to health and safety concerns.”
We see trainee teachers as a crucial audience as they will have responsibility for the education of hundreds of children during their teaching careers. Their influence and enthusiasm is key to helping children understand the importance of the natural environment. Maybe one way to increase the number of confident teachers is to give trainee teachers confidence?
Teachers and trainee teachers might also be interested in our short film encouraging more farm visits: Teaching & learning at your local dairy farm see http://www.face-online.org.uk/teachlearndairy
Hannah Martin is the Impact Measurement Officer at FACE (Farming and Countryside Education). She studied Mathematics at the University of Warwick and joined the FACE team in January 2015.