|On Wednesday 13th March, 90 students with learning difficulties from across Sussex, Surrey, and Kent came together to participate in the South of England Agricultural Society’s 21st Jim Green Challenge.
Organised in honour of the Agricultural Society’s past chairman and founder of its educational outreach programmes, Jim Green (who passed away in 1998), the challenge invites students and adults from land-based colleges, and specialist day centres, in the South East to take part in both practical competitions and evidence-based project work, all focused around the countryside.
This year, 11 teams took part in the all-inclusive competition including those from Aldingbourne Country Centre, Chichester College, Manor Green College and Woodlands Meed College in West Sussex, Plumpton College in East Sussex, Nescot College and Young Epilepsy in Surrey, and Hadlow College in Kent.
Involving participants with a wide spectrum of learning difficulties ranging from ADHD and epilepsy, to autism and cerebral palsy, the challenges set for the competition encompassed a variety of skills. This year’s theme for the competition was bees and students had to carry out a range of tasks from practical crafts and verbal identification, to pre-planning and display of evidence, which they were able to work on at college with their fellow classmates prior to the event.
Judging categories included:
· Making a bee sculpture out of recycled materials
· Making a model depicting a variety of places where Bees find their pollen
· Baking and decorating cupcakes
· Planting and growing spring bulbs
· Designing and making a hedgehog house using hand-held tools
· Identification of countryside foliage
· Making a self-supporting scarecrow
· Removing old plant material and preparing new flowerbeds
· Planting a small window box using equipment provided
Albion in the Community, Brighton & Hove Albion’s official charity, also came along to support the event by providing fun football activities for everyone to take part in between challenges. Furthermore, with various indoor games, a model cow with simulated udders for participants to try their hand at milking, and an opportunity to meet the super obedient gun dogs and their trainers, there was something to keep everyone entertained throughout the day.
Once the activities and judging had taken place, the event concluded with a jam-packed awards ceremony and everyone received certificates of participation from the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper. Various individuals then received plaques and shields for their outstanding achievements, but there could only be one overall team winner, and this year the team from Woodlands Meed College pipped the others to the post after receiving the most number of points for both the practical and product evidence elements of the competition.
The team was presented with the prestigious Jim Green Challenge bowl by the Society’s current President Sir Richard Kleinwort. On their win, Alan Robinson, who led the Woodlands Meed College team, said:
“Woodlands Meed are extremely proud of the Jim Green Challenge team. The students have been working hard on the projects since September. It allows them to learn, practice and demonstrate their creative and horticultural skills and knowledge. This is the fifth year we have taken part in this challenge and are delighted to be the overall winner for the first time. It is a wonderful, inclusive event that is a positive experience for our students.”
The South of England Agricultural Society’s Deputy President, Carole Hayward, who is the Society’s current leader of educational outreach, added:
“The 21st Jim Green Challenge was an absolutely marvelous event. It was wonderful to see so many students and adults who simply don’t have these competitive educational opportunities offered to them as main-stream schools do, come together under one roof and challenge themselves. It is so rewarding to see everyone enjoying the day, meeting like-minded people and ultimately achieving so much and realising their potential. A huge congratulations to everyone who took part and especially to our winning team from Woodlands Meed College.
“The Jim Green event, in alignment with everything we do at the Society, celebrates everything that is great about agriculture, horticulture, and the countryside. It just re-enforces that no matter what age, background, level of education or physical capabilities a person may have, the great outdoors is for everyone to cherish. These events simply aren’t possible though without the support of our members and sponsors including Sussex Masonic Charities, Mr Kevin Booth, Golden Lion Children’s Trust and the Camelia Botnar Foundation – I cannot thank them enough. Many people don’t realise that the Society is in fact a charity and, as such, all the public events we put on, such as our upcoming Spring Live! and the South of England Show, help us continue our vital educational and support work in the agricultural sector.”