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Farming STEMterprise

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 15:00
Jennie Devine, Education Officer, NFU

The NFU's new cross-curricular project STEMterprise aims to engage reluctant learners through real-world problems.  It takes primary school children through each stage of setting up their own farm-shop business with practical science, D&T and maths lessons, closely tailored to each year group’s programme of study, incorporated throughout. 

Disengaged learners are found in every classroom, especially when it comes to subjects such as maths and science. As an upper Key Stage 2 teacher I found they were often children who had tried and failed so many times in these subjects that they had now given up. To them, these subjects were dull, irrelevant and frankly too difficult – to be endured not enjoyed. To re-engage these reluctant learners, STEM needs to be turned on its head and NFU Education’s latest initiative, Farming STEMterprise, does just that.  

With an estimated shortfall of over 173,000 appropriately-skilled STEM workers in the UK, there has been lots of discussion about increasing children’s motivation when it comes to STEM by presenting problems in real-life scenarios. Dan Meyer, the creator of Three Act Maths, goes even further. He claims we need to do more than simply framing dull tasks in a real life context but that the tasks themselves need to be more interesting and meaningful – something that children might want to do when they grow up. Meyer calls this ‘real work’ within a real life context; a philosophy which I believe is the most effective way to engage reluctant STEM learners and give them a purpose for their learning. And it is this which is at the core of NFU Education’s strategy.  

So what is Farming STEMterprise? It’s an idea I first used in my own classroom; a cross-curricular project which takes primary-school children through each stage of setting up their own farm-shop business by considering seasonality and nutrition, conducting market research, growing ingredients, budgeting, calculating expected profit, designing responsible packaging and more. Practical science and design & technology lessons, closely tailored to each year group’s programme of study, are incorporated throughout the projects and opportunities for applying real maths skills to engaging, real-life problems are embedded at each stage.  

When I used it in my own classroom, I quickly saw first-hand how children’s attitudes changed when they started being treated like adults. Not only did their enthusiasm far surpass what I’d seen previously, but they had a much more ‘can-do’ approach to difficult topics and their problem solving was all the better for it. Within the business context, they hardly even noticed that they were using STEM subjects.  

The Farming STEMterprise projects have been designed with teachers in mind – they’re easy to use and enable the delivery of key content from each year group’s study programme while embedding important messages about financial literacy and food provenance. Feedback from the primary STEM teaching world has been extremely positive:

'The farming and business context breathe life into the content. Learning about and for everyday life is the cornerstone for this collection, which pupils and teachers alike should find engaging, rewarding and enjoyable. Association for Science Education

'It is clear that Farming STEMterprise goes above and beyond any scheme of work; it embodies the ethos of STEM teaching and learning amazingly.'  West Midlands STEM Ambassador Hub  

The Farming STEMterprise resources (ten lesson plans, ten presentations and all associated resources for each year group) can be downloaded from the NFU Education website. Inspire your pupils with Farming STEMterprise and make STEM something to enjoy, not endure!

Author Info
Jennie Devine, Education Officer, NFU
The NFU represents nearly 50,000 farmers in England and Wales. An important part of our remit is to promote an understanding of the importance of farming and of modern farming methods. Our core campaign ‘Back British Farming’ champions the role that British farmers play in producing safe, traceable...    Read More
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