Take Skype, a laptop and an interactive whiteboard and Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe, standing in a paddock of cotton stubble, was able to beam directly to Sydney school students sitting in a classroom.
In July the classroom came to her via Skype
Emma is taking the story of cotton to Parramatta Public School as part of The Archibull Prize and with her live cross she showed students how technology such as moisture probes is used in the field and how data collected can be instantly uploaded. The paddock of stubble allowed her to ‘trash’ talk and explain the concept of crop rotation to 90 avid watchers.
For teacher Esra Smerdon the experience brought a real-world connection to the classroom. “When we skyped with Emma she was able to show us how they used moisture probes to identify whether or not they needed to water and how they used that data to inform them,” she said. “Water is a very valuable natural resource that we need to take care of and while we don’t have moisture probes the kids are able to touch and feel the soil (in their school cotton crop) to ensure enough water is being given to the plant. Emma also put us onto the Day Degrees formula, which helps us work out the growth cycle of cotton, which we are growing in our greenhouse.”
While Parramatta Public School has covered similar units in previous years Esra feels Emma’s presentation from the paddock helped to give the students a different perspective. “It was great to see the farmer’s point of view and what they do to ensure they have a successful crop. All these things we have been learning about has enhanced our kids understanding of what farmers go through and how climate change does affect us and why we need to be careful with biosecurity.”
And it seems Emma is having an influence on the career direction of students. “Emma is amazing,” Esra said, “and the kids absolutely love her enthusiasm. I think we have some students who now would like to be an agronomist because it looks really fun.”
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