Down on the farm – school trips to the country

Written by: HTU | Published:

Farming and Countryside Education works to connect schools with farms and farmers. Jonathan Falkingham explains what a farm visit can bring to your curriculum

Many schools encourage their teachers to focus on how they can creatively deliver the curriculum – on finding ways of bringing the curriculum to life for their pupils.

Why not encourage your teachers to break out of the constraints of their classrooms and engage pupils by connecting them to the countryside? Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) can help by connecting schools with farms and farmers, as well as enriching visits by creating high quality teaching resources.

You may presume that the venue of a farm could only be used to teach children about farming, food supply and horticulture. However, a visit to a local farm can inspire work in numeracy, literacy, science and geography. In fact, it could be argued that the whole breadth of a primary school’s curriculum could be taught on the location of a farm.

Visiting a farm and educating children about countryside life is not just a matter of what they learn, but how and where they learn as well. Of course these topics could be taught in a classroom, much like the rest of the curriculum. However, farm visits are about improving young people’s skills, understanding and values, as well as developing their desire and motivation to learn.

The engaging nature of farm visits means that pupils become aware of the relevance of what they are studying to the real world and become more confident in their learning with this knowledge.

Shearing the sheep, ploughing a field, cutting the corn and milking the cows are the usual sights you would relate to a farm – however a farm can be seen as an outside classroom, with a range of opportunities that will help make pupils’ learning more fun and interactive.

For example, a year 5 and 6 class from Bathford Primary School near Bath recently visited their local farm. Situated in the picturesque Avonvale Valley, the farm’s location is brimming with geographical features both natural and man-made.

Many teachers would see this location as being perfect for teaching their pupils about farming and food supply. However, the intention of this visit was to enrich the whole curriculum using the farm’s natural features and, in doing so, ensure the children’s learning was more fun, relevant and interactive.

The rolling hills, flowing river and farm livestock not only provided pupils with an enjoyable and interactive geography lesson, but they were also used in areas of science, as well as to develop art skills. The teacher even challenged pupils to produce poems which used only the sounds, sights and smells which surrounded them.

The application of maths in a real-life situation helped to bring the subject to life. Understanding the activities’ relevance, the children were engaged with mathematical exercises such as counting chickens on the move, collecting and totalling up how many eggs had been laid in a day, working out on average how many eggs each chicken laid, and calculating how many eggs would be laid in a week/month/year. With this information the class were then encouraged to think of the farm as a business.

A farm visit can also develop personal and social skills and many children who are quiet and reserved in the classroom come alive by experiencing the sights and sounds of a farm. Some have never seen animals at close range, others have never run through long grass, most have not witnessed the birth of a young animal.

Others begin to make the connection between the subjects they have been learning in the classroom and the “real world”. There are children for whom a visit is the catalyst for informed food choices.

Across England and Wales there are more than 2,000 farms that regularly open their gates to local schools. FACE can help your school by connecting you to these farms and farmers.

FACE can also help schools keep up-to-date with ways in which outdoor experiences can support the curriculum. And we recognise this is only possible if farm visits are in tune with the current curriculum needs of schools.

The FACE website is the first point of call for schools and teachers wanting to innovate and enrich their teaching. The teachers’ section has a range of resources which ensure that your lessons are meeting curriculum requirements. In addition, the website also has details on current FACE seminars, which demonstrate some ways that FACE’s resources can develop the curriculum.

There is a wealth of evidence from the Learning Outside the Classroom agenda which demonstrates the benefits for young people’s learning and personal development of working outside the classroom. FACE can help to support you as you make steps to make learning more fun, relevant and engaging.

• Jonathan Falkingham is from FACE.

Further information

To locate which farms in your area are willing to host school visits, go to Visit FACE at

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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