A Northumberland primary school that used the NFU’s award-winning education resources to help their pupils enjoy their return to school after the second lockdown are now on their way to the House of Commons this week (24 November) as winners in a national competition.
The ‘Farmvention’ competition is also organised by the NFU and this time had a focus on climate change - challenging schools to develop an invention, innovation or idea that would help British farmers care for the environment and reduce their impact on the climate.
The pupils at Wark C of E Primary School, near Hexham, entered their design for an automated watering system for the crops they were growing inside the school polytunnel as part of their involvement in ‘Stemterprise’ – the NFU’s classroom resource that takes children through the process of setting up a farm shop business, incorporating subjects from right across the curriculum.
Fiona McKay, their teacher, says the school was looking for a way to welcome the children back to school and re-ignite their love of learning after a difficult year during the Pandemic. So, having heard about Stemterprise, they decided to use it as the basis for a week of learning across every class.
“We looked at how plants grow and planted our own crops,” said Mrs McKay: “We tried making butter and yogurt, we planned and drew up budgets. It was a fantastic week of learning.”
At the end of the week the school decided to go a step further and enter the Farmvention competition, after children designed their automated watering system for polytunnel crops.
“Working on the watering system, the aim was to come up with a solution that used renewable energy and was sustainable,” added Mrs McKay. “The result was a solar powered sprinkler system, drawing water from the river, complete with a class-designed sensor to trigger watering when the ground became too dry.
“The children also realised that the village allotments were behind the school and so factored in sharing their renewable energy with other growers. It was really amazing.”
Despite working hard on their competition entry, Mrs McKay said they were amazed to get the call to say they had been chosen as a national winner.
“Suddenly we were booking tickets to London and talking about the House of Commons. It’s so exciting,” she said.
NFU regional director, Adam Bedford, said he was thrilled to see a Northumberland school representing the region at Westminster: “It was really wonderful to see the school using our classroom resources first to help kick-start their return from lockdown and then following through with an entry for Farmvention,” he said.
“Now in its third year, the competition attracts some amazing entries from schools all over the country, each of them bringing STEM subjects to life with creativity and imagination.
“Wark Primary’s entry is really inspiring – delivering a very practical but climate-friendly solution to a real-life problem that they faced for themselves when trying to produce high quality food crops. Congratulations to everyone involved.”
As national winners, the school will receive £1,000 to spend on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) learning as well as having the chance to present their ideas at the special event in the Houses of Parliament.