Worms play an incredibly important part in the food production cycle. They improve soil quality which helps grass to grow, which is consumed by dairy cows in vast quantities so they have the energy to produce up to 50 pints of milk each a day.
This was one of the many insights gained by around 200 East Devon schoolchildren in this year’s annual Kingfisher Award Scheme – designed to offer young people the opportunity to learn first-hand, through hands-on, sensory experiences, the vital link between wildlife, farming and food production.
Otterton C of E Primary School was announced as this year’s winner of the scheme in East Devon during a picnic celebration evening at Bicton Arena this week (Tuesday, July 3rd). The judges were impressed by the ingenuity and creativity of the children’s scientific experiment presenting soil drainage, made out of plastic bottles, accompanied by a papier-mâché cow.
Children from seven East Devon primary schools – Littleham Church of England Primary in Exmouth, Newton Poppleford, Drake’s at East Budleigh, Otterton, Tipton St John, Woodbury and Sidbury – attended field days at Dalditch Farm on the edge of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths near Budleigh Salterton in May. The farm was one of several across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, including Quicke’s Farm at Newton St Cyres, which hosted field days as part of the project.
This year, East Devon’s theme was ‘From the Ground Up…’ which involved children exploring the importance of soil to farmers and learning how cows “turn fields of grass into milk”, through a series of three activities with expert volunteers.
Following the farm visit, children returned to their classrooms to produce follow-up work inspired by any aspect of the theme using a medium and creative outlet of their choice for example art, songs, poems, games or food.
All the children were invited back to the project’s finale at Bicton Arena where their work was judged. The winning school was awarded with a carved wooden kingfisher trophy, books and prize money.
The Kingfisher Award Scheme was established in 1992 by the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and friends and since then, the field days and classroom projects have benefited around 12,000 Westcountry schoolchildren.
The scheme returned to its roots in East Devon for its 25th anniversary year; the inaugural event took place at Otter Farm near Otterton in East Devon, owned by Clinton Devon Estates which also manages Dalditch Farm and has been supporting the scheme ever since it began, with Estate volunteers helping to host the field days.
Chairman of the Kingfisher Award Scheme Caroline Fowle, said: “The standard of work this year has been excellent and the children have all been so engaged with the project and so proud of their displays and what they’ve learnt. It was difficult to choose a winner – although the judges were unanimous in their decision.”
Carron Saunders, head teacher of Otterton Primary School said: “It was a moment of such great pride seeing the children’s hard work being recognised by this fabulous award. As a school we like to base our learning in the natural environment. One of our key values is koinonia which means pulling together as a team. Just taking part in the award, let alone winning it, is a real testament to the children’s spirit of koinonia.”
The Kingfisher Award Scheme arose after a lunch meeting between Ted Hughes and his wife Carol, Chairman at the time of the Devon Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) John Martin and Bill Tucker of Heavitree Brewery, with the late poet coming up with the idea for an event for school children which would support the work of the FWAG.
Events take place every year thanks to the support of local farmers and volunteers. Farmers who may wish to host an event are encouraged to email [email protected]
Have you, or one of your children, attended a Kingfisher event over the years? If so we’d like to hear about your experience. Please contact [email protected]