Despite the muck, or maybe because of it, farms are magical places for curious children. I’ve yet to meet a child who isn’t excited at the prospect of a visit to one of the growing number of farm experiences that are based around Ireland. But anyone from a rural background will tell you that behind the magic there are potential hazards that can cause serious injury or even death. Children in particular are highly vulnerable when it comes to farm accidents; according to Teagasc 12% of all fatalities on Irish farms are children. So, whether you or your students live on or near to a farm or are just an occasional visitor for a school trip or family outing, basic farm safety knowledge and awareness of risks is essential. Indeed, we often forget that even show farms still have lots of potential dangers from heavy machinery to bio-hazards.
Both the HSE and Teagasc websites have good information and resources to help teach children about farm safety from tractor safety to animal husbandry and slurry pits. Teagasc even has a nice series of short videos for students showing children living on farms explaining about the key hazards and how to avoid them. Meantime, AgriKids.ie. founded by Meath based entrepreneur Alma Jordan, goes one step further with lots of child-centred and age appropriate interactive content for learning and appreciating the importance of being farm safe. After an appalling year for farm safety in 2014 Alma was inspired to raise awareness and promote farm safety for children and families. She wrote a series of engaging children’s books published in 2015 called ‘Tales from Riverside Farm’. Aimed at children aged 4 and up, each colourfully illustrated story focuses on an important aspect of farm safety and is told through the adventures of two children, Tom and Sarah and their magical friend, Mr. Brambles, the hedge sprite.
From this early beginning the enterprise has since developed into an online farm safety education platform with lots of information for parents and teachers along with games and activities for children. The company has also developed an Agrikids gaming app for IOS and Android. The “Dodge the Dangers” game is free for download but also offers in-app purchases for two other games, “Blackberry Picking” and “Stop the Bales”. The site itself has a really useful and well thought out section for primary school teachers with downloadable resources including lesson plans, discussion sheets, puzzles and activities split across three student groups – Junior/Senior Infants, 1st Class to 3rd Class and 4th Class to 6th Class. There are also a number of interactive games that could be used on a classroom whiteboard, great for prepping a class heading out on a school tour to a farm. In addition, schools can also book Farm Safety Workshops delivered by the founder via the website.
It’s fantastic to be able to recommend an Irish based educational resource tackling an often forgotten issue in such an engaging, child centred way.
Postscipt: While I was writing this piece yesterday a three year old boy lost his life in an accident on a farm in Wexford. Seeing the headline this morning brought the need for this type of education into sharp focus. My condolences to his family at such a horrific loss.