Opportunities Beyond the Classroom for GCSE Food and Nutrition Students

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A core component for the Year 11 GCSE in Food and Nutrition Science, is the topic ‘Food Processing and Production’. This unit gets students to explore how our food is produced, whilst also developing a greater awareness of the Agri-Industry in Northern Ireland.  This course element focuses on the primary processing of milk and  the secondary processing of milk into other food products. For example, everyone’s favourite, ice cream. To help bring this topic to life and explore the career possibilities within Northern Ireland, we organise an annual visit to Draynes Farm, Lisburn.

The following in an engaging and enjoyable account of how this visit unfolded earlier this month.

Food and Nutrition

The bright morning sun of October 3rd 2023, witnessed the arrival of a group of eager Year 11 Food and Nutrition students from Wallace High School at the gates of Draynes Farm, in picturesque Lisburn. Excitement bubbled within the students as they prepared for a unique educational adventure, designed to deepen their understanding of food production, the opportunity to interact with the young calves and of course, sample some of the farms amazing ice-cream.

The day kicked off with a warm and enthusiastic welcome from Michael Drayne. The students were then shown around the beautiful house and gardens with a variety of flowers, trees and bushes. Maintained to perfection by Michael himself. A brief history lesson about the house and grounds was the perfect starter for the students, who were now longing to get into the thick of things on the farm.

Before the guided tour could begin, all students and staff were kitted out from head to toe with relevant protective clothing. Hair nets, white coats and shoe covers brought a new unique look for our current Year 11 students. Michael captured the interest of the students by pointing out the luscious green fields that the cows graze on, the importance of maintaining these to a high level and the hard work that is required to achieve this.

Michael also talked about how the farm has changed over the years, with the addition of larger equipment, solar panels and even how delivery vehicles have changed. The farm is continually evolving and adapting, but the “family” ethos of the farm remains firmly planted. It was an eye opener for the students, as Michael talked about rising costs of equipment and the never ending challenges that the farm undertakes daily, as they strive to produce the best quality products.

With rapt attention, the students observed the farm’s experienced dairy team demonstrating the bottling process. They learned about the  technology involved and were amazed by the volume of milk that can be bottled, as well as labelled, in such a short space of time.

A look into the ice-cream making room certainly got a few mouths watering and indeed at the end of this section of the tour, the students got a chance to sample the famous Draynes Farm ice-cream. Salted Caramel and Honeycomb were definitely the favourite on the day. It was a moment of gastronomic delight and a perfect example of the Farm to Fork concept they had been learning about in class.

Next the Year 11 students were passed over to the very experienced farm manager Chris. Chris has been working on the farm for over 19 years and his passion for the cattle was clear for everyone to see. As they approached the cow barn, a palpable sense of anticipation filled the air. Here they would witness the fascinating process of milking cows, a critical step in the production of milk and dairy products. The students were educated on all the measures in place to help make life as best as possible for the cows. Moving brushes for scratching and rubber floors to help protect hooves, to name but a few.

After witnessing the cow’s part in the food production process, it was time for the students to get up close and personal with these gentle creatures. They were introduced to the farms herd of young calves and the students quickly bonded with these bovine beauties.

They petted, had fingers sucked, gave some nicknames and of course plenty of selfies, helped forge a deep connection between the students and the source of dairy products that grace their table daily. The question ‘Can I bring one home?’, filled the air as the students got ready to finish their educational site visit at Draynes Farm.

Careers in Food and Nutrition

Unfortunately, the time had come for the students to return to school. Everyone gave a huge heartfelt thanks to Chris and Michael. It was a fantastic, well planned, educational and enjoyable time at Draynes. It was a great chance to see behind the scenes on a working farm. Invaluable lessons were learnt and smiles all round reflected our enjoyment of our visit (and it wasn’t just because there was ice-cream!).

Reflecting on this wonderful opportunity to enhance learning and teaching beyond the classroom, Mrs Bittle, Head of Food and Nutrition Science, remarked:

“We are very grateful to Draynes for opening their busy farm to us and giving our pupils such a great insight into the reality of food processing. Our pupils were keen to tell us all about their time on the farm in their next Food & Nutrition lesson and just how much they enjoyed it. It’s a super learning experience!”

Last modified: October 25, 2023