Foxton schoolchildren learn about the food they eat

1 Mar 2008

Two scientists from NIAB have begun a series of visits to schools in the region to promote the National Year of Food and Farming.

Mike Day, who is responsible for the vegetable trials programme at NIAB, and fellow scientist Dr Lydia Smith, started by giving a humorous and informative illustrated talk about the origins of the food we eat, as well as our genetic make up, to pupils at Foxton Primary School.

Mike gave them plenty of food for thought too – leaving behind a sack of carrots for them to munch on which had been donated by Isleham Carrot Growers, as well as a fruit and vegetable quiz, posters and packets of seeds. He said, "The children were keen and enthusiastic to learn about the food they eat and about UK farming. Their teacher has started a garden and is obviously a great asset in trying to help her pupils understand how plants grow. I was impressed by how many of the vegetables the children knew and how quickly they picked up which part of the plant they had come from."

Lydia used an egg shaped model in different colours to illustrate how characters such as eye colour or flower colour are inherited from parents’ genes. Lydia said, “The children were bright and enthusiastic, asking intelligent questions about aspects of the talks. We were very pleased to discover that they already knew the names and uses for many of the vegetables that we discussed. It was also gratifying to find that they picked up the rudiments of genetics very quickly, which should considerably enhance their understanding of their studies at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden which they will visit later.”

The 7-9 year-olds already have green fingers as they help out with their school’s vegetable plot and enthusiastically responded to questions from Mike and Lydia.

Class teacher Julie Bamborough said, “I think this will definitely make them think more about the food they eat. At home, they will be talking about this with their parents too and asking where their food came from, instead of just eating it. It has definitely raised their awareness.”