Andover youngsters know their tatties

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OVER 6,000 Scottish primary schoolchildren – including youngsters at Andover Primary School in Brechin - are hoping to become this year’s ‘Crop Stars’, having competed in a schools potato-growing project to win an Interactive Whiteboard.

It’s all part of a joint project by the Potato Council and the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET).

In the Scottish leg of the project, schools had the option to compete in ‘Count & Grow’, sponsored by Clydesdale Bank, encouraging children to gain some hands-on experience of growing a crop, while simultaneously developing their numeracy skills.

Now in its seventh year, Count & Grow had over 200 schools participating this year and, having planted the crops in March classes all over Scotland have just harvested their potatoes to see whether their efforts had been successful!

In Angus and Dundee, twenty-three classes from 16 schools took part in the project.

At Andover Primary School, Miss Bell’s primary two class followed up their potato harvest with a visit out to see their RHET farmer Bruce Christie’s potatoes growing in the field.

The class visit out to Westside Farm, part of Dalhousie Estate, allowed the children to see wheat, barley, oilseed rape, carrots and peas growing, as well as the potatoes.

Bruce explained to the children how each of the crops are grown and harvested and also the products they go to make.

The last stop on the visit was to see close up some of the Estate’s Aberdeen Angus cows with their calves. RHET Project co-ordinator Carol Littlewood was also on hand to talk about the important wildlife and habitats on the farm.

Many farmers across the country have, like Bruce, turned out to support their local schools and helped them with planting their potatoes in March.

The involvement of local RHET volunteer farmers helps to bring the project to life for the children and demonstrates how to plant the potatoes correctly.

Classes had to harvest their potatoes by Tuesday, June 21 in order to enter their potato weights for the competition and many schools again enlisted the help of their local RHET farmer to come and help them with this part of the project.

Some 13,000 primary schools nationwide registered to take part in ‘Grow Your Own Potatoes’, a project organised by the Potato Council and supported by the potato industry, who supplied the seed potatoes for the schools to plant and harvest.

With so many suppliers supporting the project this year, all schools were sent two varieties of potatoes. Scottish schools received Rocket seed potatoes from Cygnet PB, as well as a variety called Smile supplied by Higgins Agriculture Ltd.

Whilst Grow Your Own Potatoes links to areas of the curriculum that cover ‘where food comes from’, ‘healthy eating’ and ‘how things grow’, RHET run the Clydesdale Bank sponsored ‘Count & Grow’ project, which focuses on mathematics and numeracy, with cross-curricular downloadable activities and workbooks.

This has meant that by combining the two projects in Scotland, teachers have a wealth of material to use in the classroom. All resources are available to download from www.rhet.org.uk and www.potatoesforschools.org.uk

Schools had until July 1 to submit their projects and the winning school will be announced soon.

RHET Manager Alison Motion, said: “The project is a perfect way for schools to link many areas of the curriculum. Count & Grow is a fun project with a serious side to it, combining areas of Curriculum for Excellence and enabling pupils to really understand the process of growing potatoes.

“We are extremely grateful to Clydesdale Bank for their continuing support with this project, and to Potato Council for the opportunity to take this forward as a joint venture.”

Irene Swankie, community affairs manager at Clydesdale Bank, added: “We are delighted to continue our support for this important programme. It’s great to see children across the country learning in such a fun and original way!”

According to Caroline Evans, head of marketing and corporate affairs for Potato Council, over one million children have now benefitted from taking part in the Grow Your Own Potatoes project and have built up knowledge of where potatoes come from and why they are a staple part of our diets. “What helps us to really stand out though is the commitment from the industry.

“We’ve extensive involvement from suppliers; providing seed potatoes and also agreeing to fund prizes for their regions, growers linking directly with schools to help bring the project to life and a number of agricultural societies holding supporting events.”