Food, fibre curriculum needs right story

Food, fibre curriculum needs right story


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DESPITE expectations, children from regional areas may not actually have a greater knowledge about where food and fibre comes from than their urban counterparts.

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KEY KNOWLEDGE: PIEFA CEO Ben Stockwin and ICPA vice president Sally Sullivan say it is important to ensure accurate food and fibre knowledge is shared.

KEY KNOWLEDGE: PIEFA CEO Ben Stockwin and ICPA vice president Sally Sullivan say it is important to ensure accurate food and fibre knowledge is shared.

DESPITE expectations, children from regional areas may not actually have a greater knowledge about where food and fibre comes from than their urban counterparts.

Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia chief executive officer Ben Stockwin said a recent survey of Australian school students showed 75 per cent of year 6 students think cotton socks are an animal product and 27pc of year 10 students think yoghurt comes from plants.

But more worryingly, Mr Stockwin said, was the statistics that 40pc of year 10 students believe farming damages the environment and 43pc did not link science to primary production.

"We want to tell a story about an industry that puts food on the table for 20 million people everyday and another 70m overseas," he said.

Speaking at the Isolated Children's Parents' Association federal conference last week, he said despite hypothesising there would be a marked difference in the knowledge between regional and city-based students, there was no noticeably different knowledge base.

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He said this was behind a drive to improve the inclusion of food and fibre within the education curriculum.

Mr Stockwin said part of this was ensuring accurate information was shared with teachers.

"If teachers don't have the knowledge or confidence, they won't (teach agriculture) or will do so from a compromised source, such as activists," he said.

PIEFA has launched the PrimeZone website, which has more than 600 resources that sit within the curriculum and are free for teachers to use.

Mr Stockwin said this has been steadily growing, with 46 per cent more users in the past year.

It has been joined by Career Harvest, which shows the wide range of career options in agriculture, as well as the vast number of scholarships available.

He said other initiatives, such as Facetime a Farmer, also helped show students about food and fibre they might not otherwise get to see, as was the case when a Vic-based egg producer showed a classroom of NT-based students across the operation. There are no commercial egg producers in NT.

Mr Stockwin said with Australia and New Zealand as two countries that have never experienced a food crisis, there was the tendency to take food production for granted.

But he said it could run on a fine line.

"The issues in our industry, it's the students in our schools who are the ones who are going to solve these problems," he said.

ICPA has backed this push towards improved education, with a motion to support food and fibre being taught and integrated into the primary and secondary school education.

ICPA federal vice-president Sally Sullivan said it was true that even "bush kids" could have their knowledge restricted to the operations "in their backyard".

She said this was why it was so disappointing that so few schools in NT, especially boarding schools, offered agriculture as an elective subject.

She said it was important that these subjects were taught throughout the curriculum but it needed to be the right information.

"Agriculture is in the curriculum but we've seen environmental science taught under the banner of ag," she said.

"That's why we're now speaking about food and fibre."

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