Published: 28 May 2020
An initiative from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) is helping teachers inspire the next generation of agricultural scientists.
The Pastures in Schools Program, led by TIA pasture researcher Dr Rowan Smith is a partnership between TIA, the Department of Education and the Tasmanian Agricultural Education Network.
Late last year Dr Smith alongside TIA pasture experts Ms Lesley Irvine and Mr Gary Martin, delivered two professional development training workshops for teachers from 15 high schools across Tasmania.
The sessions demonstrated practical hands-on exercises that teachers could run in their classrooms to teach pasture science to their students.
Dr Smith said that optimising pasture and animal production in a sustainable way is a key focus for agriculture globally and is particularly important in Tasmania.
“Grazing industries are significant in Tasmania because they account for more than half of our total farm gate value,” Dr Smith said.
“Growing pastures and the study of pasture and forage science more generally relies on knowledge from a range of fields including agronomy, soil science, entomology, physiology, microbiology, and animal science to name a few.
“This program is providing teachers with a guide on how to enlighten students on the importance of pastures.
“Highlighting where science plays a key role in the decision-making processes of farmers and providing hands-on activities will hopefully inspire students into following a career in agricultural science.
“Importantly, it will also show students that there is a practical application for the basic maths and science they are learning in the classroom.”
The sessions started from the ground up looking at everything from soil texture and soil fertility, right through to nodule scoring on legumes, pasture measurement and feed budgeting.
The training materials have been added to the ‘Engaging students in STEM using Agriculture – Teacher Resource Book’, developed by TIA.
The teachers who attended were also recently delivered a pack of additional materials for the hands-on activities including soil pH kits, pasture measurement rulers, pasture identification booklets, and a guide to pasture pests.
Mr Andrew Harris, State-wide Coordinator - Food and Fibre Production at the Department of Education is enthusiastic about the program.
“This outstanding professional learning support, with the added provision of curriculum resource kits, from TIA and the University of Tasmania is an example of how important stakeholder collaboration is to the agricultural education and career pathway,” Mr Harris said.
“Through this initiative, agriculture teachers around the state can provide students with engaging and industry connected learning programs about the science of pasture, helping to grow our future industry leaders.”
The project is funded by the University of Tasmania’s Regional Incentives Grant.