Teachers from across Victoria are urged to apply for a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from some of the state’s most innovative farmers, as they open their gates to showcase the latest advancements in ag technology and sustainable production.
The innovative Teacher Farm Experience Program (TeacherFX) – a two-day professional development program to be held on October 9 and 10 in the Goulburn Valley region – aims to equip educators with an increased understanding and interest in food and fibre production, with a particular focus on how they can adopt the learnings into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and digital technology curriculums. The program is delivered at no cost to participating teachers.
The roll out of TeacherFX – which follows a successful pilot of the program in Western Australia last year – is part of a wider initiative, spearheaded by agribusiness banking specialist, Rabobank and its farming clients, to bridge the urban-rural divide.
Feedback from last year’s pilot indicated prior to attending the program, half of the teachers were not connected, or only distantly connected, to the agricultural industry. However, after completing the program, almost all (96 per cent) said they would encourage their students to consider a career in agriculture.
Program organiser and Rabobank Northern Victorian Client Council member Monique Bryant said TeacherFX provided a platform to showcase the many career opportunities in agriculture. “As being involved in a career that produces food and fibre for the world is exciting,” she said.
With increasing employment opportunities right across the ag supply chain, Mrs Bryant said, the sector offered career paths in a number of areas including technology, engineering, genetics, marketing, finance, agronomy, soil management, environmental management and research.
Mrs Bryant said TeacherFX – a joint initiative of 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) – aimed to provide teachers with the confidence to pass their learnings on to students by giving them access to farms, and providing them with a learning package to take back and use in the classroom.
“By giving teachers a hands-on look at how agriculture uses STEM in many aspects of business, we hope they return to their classrooms with the skills and confidence to make connections back to agriculture in their teaching programs,” she said. “Because realistically a lot of students might not have a connection to agriculture, but if their teachers are showcasing ag in their classrooms, it might get them thinking about a career in the sector.”
With CQUni providing the professional support for the program’s development, resources for teachers to take home and evaluation measures to record its success, CQUni Research Fellow in agri-tech education and innovation, Dr Amy Cosby said the upcoming TeacherFX would be the first personal development opportunity of its kind for teachers in Victoria.
“The program offers a rare opportunity for teachers to undertake a professional development program, focused on STEM and digital technology, right on their doorstep,” she said. “And feedback from last year’s pilot found all those who attended would recommend their colleagues attend the program.”
Dr Cosby said the feedback also found prior to attending TeacherFX, 40 per cent of teachers didn’t incorporate food and fibre into their teaching programs. However, after completing the program, 90 per cent said their confidence, knowledge and skills had improved, allowing them to incorporate food and fibre concepts into their teaching.
With plans to roll out TeacherFX across Australia, Rabobank regional manager for Riverina and Northern Victoria Sally Bull said it was exciting the Goulburn Valley would host the first program outside Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
“There is so much diversity in Victoria’s agricultural sector,” she said, “and this will be put on show with the program including visits to a dairy farm, fresh fruit and vegetable operation and fresh cut flower enterprise.”
Ms Bull said the group would also hear from Edwina Beveridge, a well-known pork producer, whose farm utilises a large quantity of food waste as pig feed and makes power from methane captured from pig manure – which saw her enterprise win the NSW EPA’s Green Globe award in 2018, for resource efficiency.
The second day of the program, she said, will include interactive classroom sessions on how to collect and analyse agricultural data, with the teachers equipped with interactive resources to take back to their classrooms.
Ms Bull said there was no charge for teachers to attend TeacherFX, which includes meals, accommodation with local farming families and return bus transport from Melbourne.