800 Children and some tubs of rapeseed

A few weeks ago we were invited to take part in an educational extravaganza at Driffield Showground. The idea being to give the younger members of today’s society a good sound knowledge of farming and agricultural practice.

“What a great idea” we thought as we signed on the dotted line. It was only as the day drew nearer that we wondered how on earth we could make rapeseed, and its subsequent conversion into our favourite golden oil, interesting for, roughly,800 9 to 11 year olds from all over North Yorkshire!

Could we grind some seeds up in a coffee grinder? Charlie, our 5 year old, is convinced this would work. We thought that perhaps Charlie could help on the day and tell each group of 20 children all about the four stages of rapeseed harvest (no, we’re not certain what they are either but he’s adamant there’s four stages!)? Adam thought it would be fun to get a stack of paper and some hammers and invite the children to crush some seeds between the papers and see the oily smears the seeds leave. We weren’t sure Health & Safety would like that idea so we compromised with just Adam giving the seeds a good bashing instead.

After much to-ing and fro-ing of ideas we decided we’d do what we usually do and perfect the talk/demonstration on the day (sometimes called ‘winging it’!) . We ended up taking along some flowering plants, ten tubs of seeds, ten bottles of oil, a cabbage and a pot of mustard (to demonstrate they’re all from the Brassica family for those of you wondering why on earth we’d take random items!) plus two blocks of wood, some paper and a hammer.

You know what? It went beautifully. The kids were fantastic – naturally curious and interested in everything and we had some hilarious questions. “Is there a chance that in this tub of seeds there’ll be some that have never been touched by a human hand?” was one of the more interesting questions. Every group though wanted to know how many seeds were in each tub (guesses seemed to stagnate around one million!) and how many seeds it took to make one 500ml bottle of oil (around one and a half to two kilos for anyone interested). We had some lovely kids from farming families who knew it all but were still happy to chat and explain the processes to their classmates. We also had some from urban backgrounds who had never been close to a rapeseed flower and who thought we’d have to boil the flowers to get the oil or ‘melt’ the seeds – it was these children the day was aimed at and it’s our fervent wish that they went away from the day with a much greater understanding of all things agricultural.

The one thing that every single class had in common though is that it seems that the minute children stick their hands into a two kilo tub of rapeseed they go into a kind of trance. It didn’t matter whether the next group was noisy and boisterous or arrived looking uninterested; the minute they put their hands into the seed they became far more receptive. This makes it generally easier to chat to them and pass on information.

We’re now thinking of marketing rapeseeds as a classroom tool – we think the idea’s got legs!

Leave a Reply