|Last week over 2,000 pupils from 52 primary schools across Sussex and Surrey were treated to a very special educational day out at the 13th Connect with the Countryside event at the South of England Showground.
The free event, organised by the South of England Agricultural Society as part of their charitable educational remit, saw Year 5 and 6 pupils get hands on with a whole host of activities, challenges and displays focused around livestock, horticulture, food, wildlife and recreation.
Split into various zones at the showground, 2019’s programme focussed more than ever on the importance of farming and the countryside and how our food is produced.
In the livestock zone pupils were able to meet a range of farm animals from Sussex beef bulls, baby chicks and sheep to llamas, donkeys and ferrets – learning how the animals are bred and utilised for everything from providing the food on our plates to maintaining crop levels.
Across the showground, in the horticulture and food zone, pupils learnt about healthy food, focusing on how products they consume are made. It was hands-on a plenty with children making fresh fruit smoothies by cycling on a special smoothie bike, kneading dough to make bread, helping make cheese from scratch and even churning butter. Shared focus was also on teaching the children about the taste of our food today – highlighting the different taste and look of various tomatoes and pepper varieties and even how sausages are flavoured.
In the wildlife and recreation zone, pupils experienced dolly making with corn, seed sowing, weaving and spinning, horse racing, gun dog training, fly fishing, hedge laying, forestry and conservation – even getting the chance to explore a gigantic combine harvester. Furthermore, they got to watch a fascinating show about the different breeds of sheep, a bird of prey display, as well as show jumping and pony polo demonstrations.
Carole Hayward, Deputy President of the South of England Agricultural Society and chair of the charity’s Education Committee, said:
“Sadly, in today’s technology-led society, there are still so many children that simply don’t know where their food has come from, how their woollen jumper is made, or even how the world existed without the internet or computerised machinery. Some surveys even show that one in five children believe milk comes straight from the fridge or supermarket and that cows drink it rather than produce it, while cheese comes from plants, pasta comes from animals, tomatoes grow underground, and fish fingers are made of chicken1.
“The whole point of our Connect with the Countryside event is to support the national curriculum and ensure we are doing whatever we can as an agricultural charity to build understanding among pupils and teachers. We offer this as a free event to primary schools across the South, giving their pupils an exciting and interactive educational day out where they learn through stimulating play and discovery, taking away vital information and inspiring them to actually connect with the countryside.
“Our 13th event was a huge success and it was wonderful to see so many children at the showground exhilarated by all the things they were learning and experiencing with their peers. A big thank you to all our countryside exhibitors and volunteers who gave up their time so generously to help the future generation alongside us. Here’s to 2020!”