Lower Stock is a 250 acre farm at the foot of the Mendip Hills in Somerset near to the villages of Langford and Wrington. It is a working livestock farm with 1000 cows and 7000 pigs and produces 2.5 thousand tonnes of cheese each year.
The farm has been hosting visits from school children since 1980 and since 2000 there has been a full-time education manager. There is a purpose-built room that school groups can use when they arrive and during the day, as well as handwashing and WC facilities. The current education work involves links with local primary and secondary schools and takes the form of school visits to the farm (spring and summer) and farmer visits to the schools (winter). The overarching aim is to build bridges between children and farms and to develop children’s and adults’ understanding of the choices that they have in relation to food consumption.
Prior to 2000, farm visits tended to involve fairly unstructured half-day tours of the farm with little in the way of curriculum-related activity. Since 2000, however, the educational work has a stronger emphasis on structure, curriculum links and long-term relationships with schools. School visits are always preceded by a teacher pre-visit to the farm and (where possible) a farmer visit to the school. This allows staff to become familiar with the facilities at the farm and the children to gain some sense of who the farmer is and how the farm’s activities might link to their lives. The actual visits to the farm involve different kinds of activities in the morning and afternoon (see below).
Curriculum-related tasks often in pairs (led by farmer and/or teachers).
Comparing growing things in light and dark
Learning about life cycles
Learning about animal genetics
Talking about animal health and welfare issues
Investigating rural industries
Less structured activities around the farm (led by farmer).
Based on the experiences of the farm owner Nick Baker, the key benefit for pupils is the opportunity for direct hands-on experience. In secondary school biology, for example, there is no way that an A level student could put on a rubber glove and feel a cow’s uterus without being at a farm. For primary school children, the opportunity to touch animals and realise simple things such as the fact that animals have toilets is very significant. Furthermore, the potential for curriculum links from farm-based activities are ‘endless’. Indeed, school staff are encouraged to take notes during visits and are provided with materials and resources for use in follow-up lessons once back in school.
Lower Stock Farm
T: 01934 862195