Primary school pupils from across Ayrshire and Cumbria were recently given some hands-on farming experience as part of their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) curriculum.
The farm visits were part of the Digital Dairy Chain’s STEM Engagement initiative involving a wide range of industry partners. In a collaboration between national dairy co-operative First Milk and Glasgow-based charity SmartSTEMs, the children aged 8-11 explored the many jobs involved in the ‘grass to glass’ route of dairy farming.
One of the farmers hosting the groups, Tom Steel, commented: “We had a great day with the schoolchildren here at Stafflar Farm. It was a good opportunity to show them what we do and to encourage young people into the industry.”
Moving through several workstations, pupils were given activities to illustrate what they were learning, such as holding clusters in the milking parlour, making a cow’s stomach from coloured modelling dough and using a DNA sampling machine on a cardboard ear. Learning about cow behaviour through technology drew particular interest from the groups. Having been shown a ‘cow fit bit’ to measure the 30,000 steps taken on average when grazing, the children were asked to study one of the cows in front of them and assess its behaviour.
“It was great to see how the children’s enthusiasm for learning about agriculture and dairy research. It’s so important to capture their imaginations at this age and show them the range of jobs available,” said Dr Holly Ferguson from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).
The sight of local haulier TP Niven’s large milk tanker also ‘wowed’ the group. “It was a great opportunity to teach the children about jobs in the dairy industry and encourage the next generation of Ayrshire’s milk hauliers,” said Stephen Black from TP Niven.
Asked what they had learnt from the visit, one pupil remarked, “I loved finding out how to check a cow is happy” with a teacher adding, “I was raised on a dairy farm and I can’t believe how far the technology has advanced.”
“Taking young people onto farms opens their minds to future career opportunities,” said Donna Walton, Project Manager at SmartSTEMS. “Every single child here today has been animated and fully engaged. Working with First Milk is invaluable. I can’t wait to replicate this on other farms.”
These farm visits involved cross-industry collaboration from First Milk, SmartSTEMs, SRUC, DeLaval, Nestlé, National Milk Records (NMR), TP Niven and Wm Armstrong Ltd. There are so many amazing organisations and companies out there trying to spread the same message and the Digital Dairy Chain believe collaboration is the key to ensuring the future talent pipeline for the sector.
Watch out for more STEM Engagement activity updates coming soon! If you’re interested in hosting a school visit on your farm or volunteering with the STEM Engagement project, please contact us.