Opening the farm gate for school students
22 November 2023
MLA is opening the gate to the next generation, giving them an insight into the red meat and livestock industry through the engaging Australian Good Meat Education program.
MLA’s Schools and Education Manager, Susan Howe, emphasises the importance of educating young people about the industry.
“It’s an indisputable fact that today’s youth have a disconnect with agriculture and a limited understanding of where their food comes from.
“Coupled with less school farm-based excursions, the gap is getter wider to bridge,” Susan said.
The majority of Australians tend to agree, with results from the 2023 Community Sentiment Research confirming that 71% believe children should be learning about the red meat industry in schools. MLA is committed to educating Australia’s young people about where their red meat comes from, its nutritional benefits and how it’s produced sustainably.
An added benefit of educating young people about the industry is to highlight the diverse and dynamic career pathways which may inspire them to consider a career in the industry.
A multi-pronged approach
Hands-on activities engage children and cater to a variety of learning styles.
Did you know:
- Teacher and student insights tell us that today’s students require educational content to be delivered in a variety of formats?
- There is a shortage of current, relevant and curriculum-linked Australian-based red meat and livestock materials on hand for teachers to develop their lesson plans with?
MLA has responded to these two challenges by providing classroom-ready teacher and student resources and wider educational support. These include:
- ready-to-teach, curriculum-aligned Australian Good Meat teaching resources
- virtual classroom programs
- speaker support at educational events
- participation in educational activities hosted by third parties such as Royal Ag Society Farm Day Excursions, Rural Discovery Days, Show-time educational programs, National Ag Day education and teacher conferences
- collaboration with education service providers with extensive teacher networks to ensure best reach and adoption of our activities i.e. Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA) and Kids Media.
In the classroom and beyond
Free teaching resources are available to download from the Australian Good Meat website.
In early 2023, MLA, in collaboration with PIEFA, launched a suite of free, downloadable, ‘ready-to-teach’ cross-curricular Foundation to Year 10 school resources, aligned with the Australian Curriculum 9.0.
More than 130 materials have been designed by teachers, for teachers, and include lesson plans, student activities, classroom posters and paddock-to-plate card games.
A wide range of red meat and livestock industry-related topics are covered, including:
- on-farm production
- the marketing and supply chain
- nutrition and healthy eating
- emerging production technologies
- animal welfare.
The resources have a specific focus on sustainability as a curriculum priority area and are measured for continuous improvement and impact.
As they are catalogued and searchable according to year band and learning area, teachers and students can quickly access the right resources, relevant to their needs and interests.
Supporting teachers has been an important part of the resources’ success.
“Teachers are supported in the delivery of the resources with instructional videos provided for each year band,” Susan said.
A front-runner in the online learning space, MLA was the first rural research and development corporation to produce a virtual classroom that allowed students to engage with real-life producers direct from the classroom. Facilitated by a teacher, these curriculum-linked virtual classrooms have provided primary school students with an introduction into red meat farming while also learning about the sustainable practices and technology used in modern day Australian farming.
Attending and supporting teacher conferences such as PIEFA, Adolescent Success and State-based Ag Educator conferences, provides a direct pathway for educators to showcase our teaching resources and programs.
MLA also engages with teachers and students by attending and supplying resources and speakers at a range of interactive days and excursions. These include:
- agricultural shows and education initiatives in Sydney and Brisbane
- Royal Agricultural Society NSW Farm Day Excursions, RNA Queensland’s Rural Discovery Days and AgVision careers day
- National Ag Day – a PIEFA-led weeklong education program supported by MLA with red meat and livestock industry Ambassadors showcasing innovation and careers
- Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association Cows for Schools program.
MLA’s long-term membership with PIEFA effectively piggybacks off their important work with rural research and development corporations to support the development and promotion of food and fibre education and related career pathways.
This strategic investment supports PIEFA’s food and fibre educational agenda along with providing MLA a range of benefits that have a direct impact on its schools and education program outcomes.
“We participate in PIEFA programs, use their platforms and networks to reach educators, garner insights about teacher and student needs, utilise their professional services and collaborate on MLA education programs,” Susan said.
Importantly, PIEFA attends a vast range of educator events and hosts teacher professional development sessions where MLA’s teaching resources are promoted.
What’s in sight?
Susan said the teaching resources will be expanded to include a suite of Stage 6 resources for senior high school students in readiness for the 2024 school year.
“These use MLA research studies to build student capability in working with data which is a critical skill required for the future,” Susan said.
In 2024, updated ‘Cattle and sheep farming today’ fact sheets designed for primary and lower high school students will be released.
Also in the works:
- red meat digital discovery desktop tours for students
- MLA will be a sponsor partner of Beef Australia 2024’s schools program
- supporting the PIEFA-RDC collaborative National Food & Fibre Ag Education Strategy project.
Schools impact snapshot