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Strath Taieri School teacher Kate Martin said farming was in the blood for many of the pupils at the rural school located 78km inland from Dunedin. She and principal James McArthur were looking for a unique way to harness the pupils’ enthusiasm for farming and tie it in with learning.
"We have some extremely passionate and practical young learners when it comes to farming," Mr McArthur said.
Miss Martin could not find any form of teaching resources for such an event so she set about creating it all from scratch, with different modules for the children to go around in groups and learn about a farm site’s health and safety in a fun and interactive way.
"What made it really successful was the buy-in from the school’s farming families. A number of them helped out and got different machinery and vehicles to the school, so it was a very hands-on day for the children."
Young Farmers area manager Bridget Joicey and Safer Farms health and safety and wellbeing advocate Harriet Bremner caught wind of the event and were both keen to get involved.
"The idea evolved and pretty quickly we had sponsors and businesses on board to come and be part of the day," Miss Martin said.
More than 100 pupils from three schools in the greater Strath Taieri region attended the event. They were divided into smaller groups to visit each module and put to task with activities and competitions.
The police tractor featured in a key event where children had to get full cups of water through an obstacle course without entering the tractor’s blind spot.
For Miss Bremner, the event was very much a manifestation of something she has long had in the back of her mind. Since losing her partner in a farm accident three and a-half years ago, Miss Bremner has been on a passionate journey to communicate farm safety in a way that will resonate and create real buy-in.
"Not just ticking the boxes and putting the folder away, but to normalise a thought pattern that puts health and safety at the fore of everything people do when they are on the farm."
Miss Bremner has written three children’s books. WorkSafe New Zealand sponsored her Be Safe, Be Seen book, about children keeping safe on the farm, for every family to take home.
"We know that storytelling is a very powerful form of learning, so for the children to follow up what they have learnt today with a book to take home about keeping safe on the farm is ideal," she said.
"I have a dream for these farm safety days to happen in regions all over the country. It’s not just about farm safety, it also brings small communities together and celebrates our farming industry."
Miss Bremner said she was working with Sparklers NZ to create a set of teaching resources so any school in New Zealand could create their own farm safety day.
"Customising it to work for any school and collaborating with the local organisations that choose to get behind it," she said.