Tech savvy Devon primary school takes pupils on virtual farm field trips for annual Kingfisher Award

An Exeter primary school which has earned an international reputation for its innovative use of technology, has brought life on the farm into the homes of its pupils with a virtual challenge.

The Kingfisher Award Scheme is an annual educational event which sees hundreds of school children visiting local farms to explore the natural world.

This year, it was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, so teachers at Broadclyst Community Primary School decided to come up with a way for pupils to still take part at home.

The school had already been using online programmes such as Microsoft Teams and OneNote to allow pupils to access lessons, activities and resources virtually, while the school was closed. Each student is already issued with their own laptop to aid their studies. Rather than miss out on work planned for the summer, the teachers took the Kingfisher Award online as well, by creating a ‘virtual’ field trip experience for the children.

Year 4 teacher Dale Lawson, explains: “In Broadclyst we have always loved taking part in the Kingfisher Award Scheme each summer. The project, being child-led, reinforces the way we teach across the Trust as it also provides an excellent outcome for the pupils – an awards picnic and celebration of hard work.

“Not wanting the pupils of Yeo Valley and Broadclyst Year 4 to miss out on this excellent opportunity, we facilitated its continuation from home, through virtual field trips and live lessons via Microsoft Teams. The project enables children to expand their understanding of natural Britain as well as explore scientific outcomes linked to the National Curriculum.”

The Kingfisher Award Scheme was established in 1992 by the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and is supported by charitable donations. Since then, the field days and classroom projects have benefited around 12,000 Westcountry schoolchildren.

The Devon scheme is hosted each year by Clinton Devon Estates, which welcomes local school pupils onto its farms to take part in different themed workshops. They then continue their research back in the classroom and prepare a display which is presented to a panel of judges from farming or wildlife backgrounds.

During their virtual field trips this summer, the children from Broadclyst Community Primary School spent time learning about farmyard animals as well as bees and other beneficial insects. They then went on to create colourful artwork, poetry models and even cakes inspired by their studies.

The team at Clinton Devon Estates were so impressed with their efforts, before the end of term they presented the school with a prize for each pupil and a special ‘virtual Kingfisher Award’ certificate.

Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer for Clinton Devon Estates, said: “We’ve been proud to be a part of the Devon Kingfisher Award for a number of years now, an event which normally involves up to 12 local schools. It’s such a brilliant way for children to experience first-hand what goes on at our farms, as well as making the link between where their food comes from and the natural environment around them.

“The work of the teachers and pupils at Broadclyst Community Primary School has been really inspiring at a difficult time for everyone. We’ve loved seeing the creative ideas they’ve come up with to make sure they can still take part in the event. Well done everyone!”

Morgan, aged 9

Sophie and Ethan, aged 9