Farm advice: Virtual Field Trip brings the farm to schools

IrrigationNZ was involved in organising and delivering a Virtual Field Trip that brought farms to primary schools around NZ

It was exciting for IrrigationNZ to be involved in organising and delivering a Virtual Field Trip with primary schools from across New Zealand in March.

The theme of the field trip was around irrigation use on farms

The theme of the field trip was around irrigation use on farms, and with so many water and drought-related stories in the news over summer, it was certainly a topical subject.

Eleven short videos were created at various locations in Selwyn district in Canterbury, which were uploaded to a website to allow children to explore different topics without leaving the classroom.

On each of the three days of the trip, a live online web conference was also held where children could ask questions to a panel of experts.

A total of 128 classes registered to join the trip, designed for students from year five to eight. We also had many more classrooms join the web conferences on the day. 

On day one of the field trip, we covered how the recently opened Central Plains Water scheme provides water to farms and how decisions about who can use water and how much water can be taken are decided.

Day two involved a visit to a Sheffield farm where a range of arable crops were grown and irrigation was also used to help finish lambs.

Irrigation there helps grow seeds for export worldwide and to produce wheat for local mills to bake bread. On day three, we visited IZONE, one of New Zealand’s largest business parks.

The Rolleston industrial park is home to many agricultural businesses and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton discussed how water was important to Selwyn from an environmental perspective as well as for recreation and to the economy by supporting farming activity and jobs in places like IZONE.

Day three also included a visit to the Selwyn River to hear about a planned project to recharge the river using alpine water from the Central Plains Water scheme to help improve its flows.

The children also heard about some of the career options in the irrigation and water fields, which there are an increasing number of. I was one of a panel of experts who answered questions from children on two of the three days of the trip.

They had a wide range of questions about water, some of which involved a bit of research to answer, such as where did water come from originally and why is ocean water salty.

Many of their questions were intelligent and well considered, such as how is water made, when did irrigation start being used, why do some countries have more water than others and how do we clean our waterways?

It was great to get a mix of urban and rural schools participating in the field trip, and we’ve had some good feedback from the schools who participated to date, so hopefully, it served to build their knowledge of irrigation, farming, and water, and perhaps even sparked some ideas about future careers.

Our thanks also go out to CORE Education who filmed and delivered this event. All of the videos from the field trip are able to be viewed online at learnz.org.nz. If you need an activity for kids on a rainy day or over the next school holidays, they make interesting viewing. 

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