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Location: South-EastYear: 2009Grant: £450
Teacher: Mrs Claire PowellScientist: Dr Mary Hamilton, Chemical Ecology Group, Rothamsted Research
Linking their project with work being carried out by scientists in Kenya gave pupils from Halton Community Combined School an excellent insight into sustainable farming practices.
Counting insects and other wildlife in the tomato beds.
"As a teaching staff we recognise that we were incredibly lucky to have such experienced and passionate scientists come into our school to share their knowledge. I know that the scientists are passionate about their jobs and this is something that really came across."Claire Powell
In Kenya, scientists have observed that maize is protected from stem-boring insects and the parasitic weed striga by intercropping maize with the legume desmodium. In other parts of the world intercropping is also applied as a way of sustainable farming without the use of herbicides and pesticides. This is of particular relevance to subsistence farmers as well as being a relevant issue where pesticide use is becoming increasingly restricted.
Pupils were introduced to the idea of the intercropping concept through classroom based activities in February 2010. Dr Hamilton clearly explained to the pupils what the outcome of the project should be in Kenya and how the school project would mirror this work. At the end of the session all the children across the school had a good understanding of what they were trying to achieve.
In March 2010, beds were made in the school grounds in preparation for introducing the schools’ own intercropping system. Once the beds were prepared, pupils were able to plant out the tomatoes. Two of the beds were intercropped with insect-attracting nasturtiums and the main crop was surrounded with marigolds. A control crop of tomatoes was planted on their own and the children were introduced to the idea of plant growth and development. They also thought about how they were going to assess the success of the intercropping method using a range of techniques. Pupils surveyed insect wildlife from amongst the plants and also measured plant growth and yield during development.
"It has been a real pleasure to work in partnership with Halton School. We felt that the whole staff and pupils got behind the project which enabled it to be the success that it was. The level of understanding demonstrated by the children was very good; this was evident from the questions that pupils asked. I’m very much looking forward to working with the school in the future as they continue this project."Mary Hamilton, Rothamsted Research
Following an evaluation, it was clear that pupils from across the school had learned a lot, from the Foundation Stage understanding that the ladybirds were ‘good’ and the green fly ‘bad’, to pupils in later years being able to predict the outcome of the project and explain why. To share the project with the community, older pupils performed a small drama sketch to the school and guests, illustrating what happens in Kenya with the stem boring moths and striga when maize is intercropped with desmodium.
Pupils really enjoyed looking for minibeasts in the plants and were lucky enough for the scientists to be present during National Insect Week. The class really responded to this and the level of questions they asked showed they understood the whole project, not only in the school but in Kenya too.
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