By Melissa Marino
Australia’s food and fibre industries – including fisheries – are being highlighted in schools thanks to Primezone, a web-based resource that provides teachers with a range of primary industry-based materials.
Relaunched in July 2016, this ‘one-stop shop’ features resources such as videos, fact sheets and activities developed around agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as well as specific education units and assessment tasks developed by the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA).
The FRDC has supported PIEFA through its People Development Program since 2010, as have other partners including the Australian Government, other research and development corporations and agricultural organisations.
Materials covered include aquaculture, sustainable fishing, topography and life as a professional fisher. There are also units on exploring the production and marketing of seafood and investigating Australian approaches to producing fish, seafood and meat.
“The resource positions industry as sustainable, science-driven producers heavily reliant on innovation and IT,” says Ben Stockwin, chief executive officer of PIEFA, which manages Primezone.
“Our work connects people with the source of their food and fibre production, and being part of an initiative that reverses the divorce between society and the very thing that sustains it is particularly gratifying,” he says.
PIEFA has worked to build the resource since 2010 – to increase the representation of primary industries in education – after a review by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) of a draft national curriculum found just two units relating to primary production. First launched in 2011, Primezone was established to bring together a range of disparate resources on education around food production.
Ben Stockwin says the need for the resource became clear through a 2012 Australian Council of Education Research survey showing a significant lack of knowledge about food and fibre production among students. One-quarter of Year 6 students surveyed thought yoghurt was a plant product, three-quarters thought cotton socks were an animal product and most Year 10 students believed Atlantic Salmon was wild-caught, he says.
“There was also some very dim perceptions about sustainability, with 40 per cent of Year 10 students believing farming damaged the environment, while half didn’t link primary production to scientific research – and 45 per cent didn’t link it to innovation.”
Ben Stockwin says the website – along with other PIEFA activities such as running professional development sessions and presenting at national curriculum and teacher conferences – is redressing this. Through ongoing collaboration between PIEFA and ACARA, the number of resources has increased to 168, with related teaching resources found on the Primezone website. All materials are vetted and categorised by PIEFA.
FRDC program manager Jo-Anne Ruscoe says PIEFA has been instrumental in getting food and fibre recognised in the national curriculum and raising awareness about fisheries and aquaculture.
Primezone is a good platform to provide teachers and schools with evidence-based resources on food and fibre production,” she says. “Industry stakeholders have told us how important it is to them that children are provided with fair and engaging information about how seafood is produced and sustainably managed. They may even be encouraged to consider a career in the industry.
As well as allowing students to learn about different primary industries, the materials enable teachers to use primary production to educate students about big picture issues such as sustainability, food security, innovation and biosecurity.
100% of teachers providing feedback through the Primezone website said they would recommend it to a colleague.
100% of teachers reported their students found the subject matter engaging.
1100 unique users access the Primezone website per month.
60% of users each month are new visitors.
Ben Stockwin, firstname.lastname@example.org