The Farm Teacher Experience Program (TeacherFX) exposed participants to farming technologies and practices, which they then went on to incorporate in their classrooms.
Brette Lockyer and Davy Shilton both participated in the TeacherFX program, with each coming from very different perspectives.
Lockyer teaches at All Saints’ College in Perth, but is from a rural background. She says the TeacherFX program gave her an opportunity to return to her roots.
“I grew up on a farm and then I went to boarding school. I learnt so much and I felt like I reconnected, because there was so much that I didn’t know,” she says.
In contrast, Shilton grew up in the city, and now teaches at Quairading District High School in rural WA.
The program gave him a better understanding of the farming community he lives in, and helped him connect with his students.
“Because most of these kids are farmers’ kids, they kind of understand whenever you use anything related to farm stuff, so that was the primary reason of why I wanted to attend the whole thing...” Shilton says.
“I didn’t really expect to know so much by the end of it.”
Shilton teaches science and maths at Quairading and says it was fascinating to see how STEM skills are applied on farms.
“We had some experience with collaring the livestock and they were showing us how the GPS tracking is done when the livestock is collared with GPS units...” he says.
“We were taken to a website and then we were able to see if the livestock in a particular paddock is collared, then what areas they are visiting.
“So it’s basically trying to understand what are the areas they’re not visiting and how do you increase the potential of them using the entire paddock.”
Shilton went on to use the website in his classroom, challenging students to lay out fencing, water reservoirs and crops on virtual farmland.
Lockyer also found ways to apply what she learnt back in the classroom.
“I did this awesome thing with the Year 1s, the little guys, six and seven years old, called ‘the porridge project’, looking at how porridge is made and how oats are grown...” she says.
“The children’s interest was really, really high, so we taught them things like how to cook porridge in a microwave ... that sort of culminated in a Father’s Day breakfast and they served up some porridge to their fathers.”
Both Lockyer and Shilton say they connected with the farmers involved.
Shilton describes staying up until one o’clock in the morning with his host farmer, poring over nutrient maps.
Another farmer travelled to Perth to visit Lockyer’s classroom, bringing oat seeds for students to investigate.
Lockyer says the experience helped to bridge the divide between those living in urban and rural areas.
“Sustainability was on their radar for sure, and I appreciated that. How times have changed since I was a little girl on the farm to seeing what’s there now,” she says.
“I believe I discovered that farmers and city people, we have common values about caring for our environment. It was really good.”