WHY COUNTRYSIDE CLASSROOM?
Countryside Classroom was born out of a heap of frustrations, and a genuine desire for children to love food, get outdoors, and be able to make smart choices for themselves and the planet.
Teachers told us they didn’t know where to go to find good resources or trustworthy advice.
Providers (mostly charities and independent farms) said they had lots of resources, advice and places to visit but found it hard to ‘cut through’ the noise to reach schools.
The industry sectors (food, farming and natural environment) told us they wanted to to see more coordination and efficiency.
Policy makers were desperate for measures to reduce childhood obesity, food poverty, poor mental wellbeing and other related issues.
SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
A consortium of nearly thirty organisations, and growing, with many hundreds more contributors, trying to make it easier to work together and reach out to schools. Step one has been the launch of Countryside Classroom. The site aims to be a single trusted, authoritative and easy-to-use portal; the biggest collection of quality teaching resources, outdoor locations and expertise relating to food, farming and the natural environment in the UK.
The consortium is managed by Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) and includes organisations ranging from the national (Royal Horticultural Society, Linking Environment and Farming) to the local (Growing Devon Schools). Chaired by our champion, Lord Curry, a long-time supporter of farming and the countryside, the partnership is now looking for more ways to work together to create more learning experiences for children.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Anyone can contribute resources, people to ask or places to visit, which then go through a quality vetting process before appearing on the attractive and very simple site which teachers can search by location, curriculum subject, age-appropriateness and other attributes they said were important.
Organisations with a commitment to education on one of these key themes can become partners if they are willing to offer in-kind support for the ongoing development of the consortium.
To celebrate the launch, children all over the country will receive a limited edition Countryside Classroom passport, which contains 18 challenges to complete over the next two terms that will give children firsthand experience of growing their own produce, observing and caring for wildlife and tasting their own recipes. To get started, pupils from Castle Cary Community Primary School in Castle Cary will enjoy a dairy farming-themed afternoon – an experience that can be recreated in thousands of schools across the UK as Countryside Classroom goes live. Years 5 and 6 will explore the life of a dairy farmer with Denise Plummer, the work of farm vet Owain Jenkins from Delaware Veterinary Group, cheese-making with Lucy Francis from Wyke Farms and farmland birds with Julia Percy from Carymoor Environmental Trust.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Tell us about resources, places and people you think should be listed. If you like the site, tell a teacher about it or tweet it out to your networks. If you are a teacher, make sure you tell us what we can do to make it even better for you.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT COUNTRYSIDE CLASSROOM
All photos by Countryside Classroom