Counting sheep a new challenge for Northland science students

Posted by on 21 September 2018 | Comments

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Counting sheep is often touted as a remedy to help troubled sleepers nod off.

But for Whangarei Boys’ High School students, counting sheep has become part of the curriculum.

Two classes of Year 11 science students are studying a learning module called ‘Keep calm and count sheep’.

The resource examines the nutritional requirements of ewes and the factors that influence sheep growth rates.

“This module is a great way of injecting real-world farming and food production into the science lab,” said Pip Beauchamp from NZ Young Farmers.

As part of the course, almost 40 students visited Greg Lovell’s farm, northwest of Whangarei last week.

The Lovell’s run 4,500 romney ewes, 300 angus breeding cows and 600 dairy cows on a 1,800 hectare farm.

“We got to help weigh and draft a mob of ewes and lambs in the yards,” said 15-year-old Taine Beardsell.

“It was quite cool to see how technology is used to record and monitor growth rates.”

Students took part in a farm walk where they examined different pasture species.

“The boys had been learning about different types of pasture in class, so they were able test their knowledge in the paddock,” said Pip.

“They got to compare the nutritional value of Italian ryegrass, established ryegrass, clover and kikuyu.”

The Red Meat Profit Partnership-funded resources have been a hit with students.

“It was great to get out of the science lab and go on a field trip,” said 15-year-old Jack Bowering.

“Visiting the farm really enabled us to get a much more detailed understanding of digestion and nutrition in ruminant animals.”

“A highlight was examining the organs of a dead sheep. It was interesting to see the vital role they play in weight gain and reproduction,” he said.

It was Taine Beardsell’s first time on a sheep farm.

“It was pretty amazing. I didn’t realise how many factors contribute to ensuring a lamb reaches its target weight by a certain date,” he said.

Teacher Henry Dunckley downloaded the free learning module from the Agrication website and wrote an assessment for students to complete.

The website contains four cross-curricular junior school resources and three internal achievement standards in maths, english and science for Year 11-12 students. 

They’re designed to help teachers inject “real-world examples” into their classes.