A central Victorian school wants to make agriculture its specialty and is drawing on a local dairy farm to help kickstart its efforts.
Students in grade five at the East Loddon P-12 College, north of Bendigo, will care for five dairy calves on loan from Richard and Jacinta Hicks for the next few weeks as part of a pilot science program.
The school hopes it will be the start of an expanded agriculture curriculum that will start at prep level and continue through to Year 12.
“A lot of schools focus on particular VCE subjects for their kids and I think agriculture could be ours,” assistant principal Scott Wilkinson said.
“We’ve got the grounds, we’ve got local farmers who are willing to come along and help and a lot of the kids have that background in farming already.
“We feel it could really be one of our strengths.”
The college is a remote school about 8km from its closest town, Dingee.
It has 235 students with about 60 per cent coming from farms and the rest from semirural areas.
Mr Wilkinson said the school wanted to show students that studying agriculture could lead to local jobs or bring them back after university.
“We probably have fewer dairy farms in the area to when I arrived in the area 16 years ago but the dairy farms we do have are a lot bigger than what they were,” he said.
“They require workers and people to understand how to manage the animals.
“There are also a lot of cropping and sheep farms around here — we want to offer the kids as many pathways as possible.”
Science teacher Sarah Pilkington, who has developed the pilot using Dairy Australia’s Cows Create Careers curriculum resources, said she planned to expand into sheep and chickens next year.
“We have a lot of kids who just want to be back on the farm,” she said. “You put them in the four walls of the classroom and they’re not overly excited about it sometimes so this is giving those kids an opportunity.
“They are still covering the same curriculum they would cover in the classroom but it’s outdoors and they don’t notice they are at school and learning quite as much.”
Mr Hicks, who farms at Calivil and is also the school council president, said he had no hesitation when asked to supply the calves.
“When Sarah rang me, I jumped in straight away because the more agriculture they can get back into our school the better,” he said.
“I really believe in the practicality of lessons — they’ll be learning volumes, measurements, adding and subtracting without even realising it.
“I’d be happy to go again if they want more calves next year and, because the school is so community-based, if they want to go into chickens and sheep I’m sure there will be plenty of parents and other people willing to help out.”
Source: The Weekly Times