I start my teaching day by feeding our sheep and pigs before setting up the day’s lessons in Land Studies. The department has been built up step by step over the last four years, and each stage has been a calculated risk.
We started with Brian the hamster, to see if the students would come up with any amusing schemes involving “Brian on Tour” or worse. No such problems. Brian was such a popular little creature that past pupils still ask after him. Chickens soon followed, Mr Fox still hasn’t helped himself to any.
Eventually we got some pigs, and had a go at raising them for meat. This has been so successful that student attitude has gone from ‘oh how can we eat them?’ to ‘of course we eat them, why else would we have them?’. Even the refrain of “Miss, the pigs have got out” no longer fills me with the dread it did initially. They only ever get into the garden area, they always seem to have a taste for students’ coursework projects. Students have learned about animal welfare and ethics, and many can now knock up a decent pork burger from scratch too.
My friend and mentor encouraged me to take students to agricultural shows to exhibit-horrors-other peoples’ big adult pigs. When showing a pig, you do not lead it (you aren’t even attached to it) you use a board and stick to suggest a path around the showring to it, and cross your fingers that the pig does not have too much of a sense of humour. Again, this has opened students’ eyes and provided many excellent days out that they would never have had the chance to experience otherwise.
It would have been easy to dismiss these ideas as too difficult or too risky. If we had done that, our students would be less aware of the world around them, where their food comes from, and so many other things. And it has been incredibly good fun!
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