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Queensland farmers to open their gates to teachers in bid to bridge urban-rural divide

Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker

Teachers from across southern Queensland and northern NSW are encouraged to step out of the classroom and into the paddock thanks to a unique learning opportunity with some of Queensland’s most tech-savvy and progressive farmers.

Applications are now being sought for the Teacher Farm Experience Program (TeacherFX), an initiative allowing primary and high school teachers to discover first-hand the advancements in ag technology and sustainable production as local producers open their gates and showcase their working farms.

The intention is that this knowledge can then be translated into the classroom, with the program aimed at equipping educators with an increased understanding and interest in food and fibre production – with a focus on how they can adopt the learnings into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and digital technology curriculums.

Held on the Darling Downs and Lockyer Valley, the two-day professional development program will be held on Monday, March 30 to Tuesday March 31 2020, at no cost to participating teachers.

The overnight roadshow, which will depart by bus from both Brisbane and Toowoomba, will visit horticulture, cotton and dairy operations for a genuine on-farm experience.

The Queensland program is part of the roll out of the wider national TeacherFX initiative, spearheaded by agribusiness banking specialist, Rabobank, to help bridge the urban-rural divide. It is a joint initiative developed by Rabobank’s Client Councils (groups of the bank’s farming clients who meet to discuss issues and implement initiatives to contribute to the sustainability of rural communities) and CQUniversity Australia (CQUni).

With the TeacherFX originally piloted in 2018 to an extremely favourable response, successful programs have so far run in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria.

This will be the first TeacherFX program to run in Queensland.

Program organiser and Rabobank Queensland and Northern New South Wales Client Council member Georgie Krieg said the TeacherFX program provided an effective platform to showcase the many career opportunities in agriculture.

“TeacherFX has proven an extremely effective tool in showcasing all the career opportunities available in the agricultural industry using STEM skills and we’re really excited to be hosting the program here on the Darling Downs,” she said.

“Agriculture is an ever-evolving industry, completely different from when our grandparents were on the land – the technology, resources and personnel involved in ag go a long way past the farm gate.”

As such, Mrs Krieg said there was a need for teachers to increase their knowledge of agriculture in the 21st century, and have the confidence to teach these new and emerging concepts in the classroom.

“It is our teachers who will contribute to educating future generations on where their food and fibre comes from, and generate appreciation that primary producers are feeding and clothing an increasing world population,” she said.

“Agriculture is a sophisticated, high-tech industry achieving great results – better quality produce, higher yields and all whilst caring for our environment.”

“For any STEM and ag teachers the insights gained through this free two-day curriculum based PD program will prove invaluable in the classroom.”

As part of the TeacherFX collaboration, CQUni has developed innovative and interactive resources for teachers to take back to the classroom and an evaluation framework to determine its success. CQUni Research Fellow in Agri-tech Education and Extension, Dr Amy Cosby was pleased to be bringing the program to Queensland.

“The program offers an excellent opportunity for teachers to undertake a professional development program, focused on showcasing how food and fibre production is STEM in action,” she said.

“Feedback from the 2019 TeacherFX programs in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria found all those who attended would recommend their colleagues attend.”

Dr Cosby said research also found prior to attending TeacherFX, 30 per cent of teachers didn’t incorporate any food and fibre into their teaching programs.

After completing the program, 98 per cent said they would now encourage students to consider a career in agriculture.

Rabobank head of relationship management Toowoomba, Andrew Walker believed the Darling Downs provided an ideal agricultural classroom for teachers from across Queensland and northern NSW.

“As a food and fibre powerhouse, and easily accessible for urban-based teachers, there is a vast opportunity for the region to provide a genuine and valuable educational tool through TeacherFX,” he said.

“Given the projected global population growth estimates to 2050, it’s expected agricultural production will have to double – using approximately half the current arable farming land area – in order to feed and clothe the population.”

“Advancements in ag technology and sustainable production are rising to this challenge and it is an exciting space to be in, with many career opportunities – both existing and emerging.”

From a horticultural farm and packing shed tour at Rugby Farm through to a dairy farm and milking shed tour at Arabella Farming, Mr Walker said, the tour would showcase the diversity of local production, and provide insights only possible thanks to first-hand experience.

A cotton farm tour and machinery display at Glen Royal Farms and dinner at the historic Adora Downs was also on the agenda, before a genuine overnight farm stay experience with local families.

Day two of the program will focus on interactive classroom sessions including topics such as growing cotton in the 21st century, insights into the poultry industry plus an agricultural careers and education panel.

Registrations close 16 March 2020.

Source: Rabobank

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