Archie Action – Pymble Ladies College Embedding Agriculture in the Geography Curriculum

Case-study 3: Meet Ray Howells, Geography Teacher at Pymble Ladies’ College, who has integrated ‘Ecosystem of Expertise’ into the Stage 5 Geography Program

Geography is increasingly being used in The Archibull Prize to teach agriculture by surrounding the school with an Ecosystem of Expertise through:

  • Building long term partnerships with best practice farms the students investigate and report on
  • Working with our Young Farming Champions to get an understanding of how our food travels from paddock to plate and the diversity of people and roles that feed and clothe us, supply us with ecosystem services and renewable energy

Today we visit Pymble Ladies’ College (PLC) to see how they make the Ecosystem of Expertise work in practice.

Geography teacher Ray Howells grew up “with the smell of cow manure” in an English country village. He went onto teach and lead the geography department in an inner-city London school where some students had never visited a farm. But today at Pymble Ladies’ College, many of his pupils, although predominantly from Sydney, have rural connections.

“The sense of community at the College is really strong, one day a student was talking about her parent’s farm,” says Ray. “I thought it would be nice to foster this interest in agriculture in class, so I sent an email out to all of the past boarding families and friends who I thought might be supportive of this.”

In response to Ray’s call-out to the wider Pymble community, a flourishing relationship has developed with Blantyre Farms in Young, southwest NSW, and family business Montrose Dairy in southern VIC.  The students involved decided to explore how to address hunger and food insecurity through ‘the Archies’. Through Covid-19, the use of technology and digital resources has made learning accessible and enabled the Archibull program to continue.

Blantyre Farms is a mixed farming operation including sheep, cattle, cropping and pigs.

“I am fortunate to be a Pymble girl and my daughter is also a boarder at Pymble so when Ray put out the call for parents [in agriculture] to be involved I eagerly answered,” says Edwina Beveridge from Blantyre Farms. “Feeding the world is a noble profession and I hope a visit to our farms will challenge the student’s perceptions of sustainability and agriculture. Our farm is not what you would expect.”

Indeed, Blantyre can show students examples of cutting-edge technology. With 2000 sows on the farms this means they have about 20,000 pigs on hand at any time, but in an innovative solution the farm captures methane from the pig manure and turns it into electricity.

“This massively reduces our carbon footprint and allows us to generate carbon credits. We were the second project registered under the CFI [Carbon Farming Initiative] and the first farm. I like to say we are the first carbon farm in Australia and I am yet to be challenged on this!

“I grew up on a farm but showed no particular interest until I was 24. I hope this might show the students it doesn’t matter if you grew up on a farm or whether your enthusiasm started later, ag is a cracking career,” says Edwina.

Another ex-PLC student to answer Ray’s call was Gillian Hayman from Montrose Dairy.

“As a student I was always eager to understand how what I was learning related to the real world and I am sure there are many students who learn in this way.  The opportunity to learn the theory in the classroom with Ray and then back up the learning with Montrose and Blantyre Farms is a positive step and will no doubt lead to many other linkages for students.  I hope it will open their minds and perhaps break down some long-held perceptions about who a farmer is and how they go about their business in these modern times,” says Gillian.

“Unless young people are introduced to rural areas and farming through family connections or through their schooling they will not discover the possibilities open to them and there are so many exciting career opportunities across all aspects of agriculture. There are jobs from the research in labs and in the field to hands-on farming; from technology, greenhouse gas emissions, soil, plant and animal management, environment and biodiversity to nutrition, community development and economics.  Even if people do not choose a career in ag, it’s so important to understand food production and land management as a consumer.”

Ray echoes Gillian’s sentiments.

“We really want to make Year Nine and Ten Geography interesting and relatable. If the girls decide not to continue the subject in Stage 6 that’s fine, there are so many avenues and opportunities available to choose from. I’m confident we’ve given them a comprehensive snapshot of the big issues we face in Australia and the world, which is my objective.”

Helping students to make those decisions is Tayla Field and her network of fellow Young Farming Champions. Tayla, who works in horticulture, is assigned to PLC through The Archibull Prize.

“The students were able to provide a list of questions which was a great starting point, however I noticed a lot of these were in areas beyond horticulture so I reached out to the YFC asking for support. Marlee Langfield provided insights into agricultural yield from crops, Anika Molesworth gave her thoughts on the future of farming in Australia and Emma Ayliffe commented on the role of water in Australia’s dry climate. Other members of the YFC team came back with videos and we were able to create a range of online resources specifically for the PLC students,” says Tayla.

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Screenshots of the PLC Virtual Classroom created to support the students during COVID lockdown

Having access to the Young Farming Champions network through Tayla and having access to two operating farms means PLC is using the Ecosystem of Expertise to its highest degree, and the subject of geography has made the pathway clearer.


Tayla has a long history as a YFC of inspiring students to consider careers in agriculture. See case study here 


Ray sees this of enormous benefit to both his students and to agriculture.

“We have this very stereotypical image in the media of what agriculture is, like what you might see on ‘Farmer Wants a Wife. Opportunities like The Archibull Prize, Kreative Koalas, and other initiatives outside the classroom can help broaden this and show agriculture as a cutting-edge industry that is undergoing a new wave of technological revolution. With this paradigm shift, there are exciting opportunities to encourage, educate and upskill the next generation to work in innovative and wide-range fields of 21st Century agriculture.”

This concludes our 3 Part Series that showcases the opportunities for work integrated learning and how to embed the world of agriculture into the wider school curriculum

We talk to the Lorraine Chaffer from the Geography teachers association here 

We talk to Amy Gill from Youth of the Streets here

#ArchieAction #YouthinAction #YouthinAg

Want to drive change – who do you think should be the messenger?

One of the keys to being a successful changemaker is the capacity to identify the best role models for your audience. Who will be the most effective messenger?

Part of the Action4Agriculture experience for teachers participating in The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas – design a bright future competition is access to experts who share with our teachers the psychology of change management. Our Changeologist Les Robinson reminds schools about the importance of choosing the right messenger in his brilliant 60 minute workshops on The Art of Change. Our experience also tells us schools who support each other make things happen faster

Today’s blog post shows the pivotal role connectors play in creating a thriving community network and marrying the often complex concepts of agriculture, sustainability and environment. A wonderful example of this ecosystem at work was highlighted recently through Hamilton Public School and the Centre of Excellence In Agricultural Education .

Zane Osborn is the assistant principal at Hamilton Public School in Newcastle where UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have informed learning for the past three years. With a school garden already a community focal point for SDGs Zane approached Kris Beazley at the Centre of Excellence and joined their No Bees No Future project. Kris in turn suggested Hamilton Public School participate in Action4Agriculture’s Kreative Koalas, which it commenced in 2021.

As part of the Kreative Koalas project Hamilton Public conducted surveys with students and families and came to three conclusions:

  • Most people in the community would like to contribute to positive climate action,
  • Very few people knew about the SDGs,
  • People want simple ideas they can action right now in their home and community to help the environment

“We talked about how the simple things we do in our garden (that have a positive impact on the climate) can be an example to other people in the community and can inspire them to do the same; things such as preserving biodiversity, eliminating chemicals, encouraging and preserving pollinators. We wanted to do some peer to peer teaching and educate our community of families and other nearby schools.” Zane says.

This peer-to-peer messaging took the form of a series of impressive videos broadcasted on YouTube.

“With a Sustainable School Grant and lots of passionate students and teachers we were able to drive the creation of Blue Gate Garden TV. Students created episodes all based around “lessons” on how people can make a positive impact on the climate,” Zane says.

Students and staff at Hamilton Public School have successfully taken complex eco-literacy concepts and created a common language for all.

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Read more about Hamilton Public School here 

Not to be outdone Kris Beazley was also working on eco-literacy with her Year 7 AgSTEM students at the Centre of Excellence, by creating resources for primary students.

“Our Year 7 AgSTEM student team consists of nine students who are undertaking a unique learning model. In their curriculum they focus all their learning through four lenses – Sustainability, Agriculture, STEM and Aboriginal Knowledges. This year our student team have engaged in a number of projects aimed at educating themselves and others about issues related to the environment and climate action.  In this capacity they have worked with primary school aged children, teenagers and adults from varying generations. This translational approach has been a theme throughout their work this year,” Kris says.

Tapping into the school’s wealth of agricultural connectors the students were able to commence their research with a Hackathon with Cotton Australia and Australian Wool Innovation, which influenced their project for The Archibull Prize.

“As part of their Archie the students developed teaching resources for primary school students about sustainable fibre production in Australia and end of life options for Australian cotton and wool. In completing their project they have written educational books, learning resources and games for primary aged students. They also presented a workshop for primary students across NSW as part of an Ag Week conference, promoting sustainable end of life options for cotton,” Kris says.

Working with agricultural connectors and participating in programs such as Kreative Koalas and The Archibull Prize has enabled students across primary and secondary schools to engage peer-to-peer messaging. The result has been an increase in eco-literacy within communities, celebrated by Blue Gate Garden TV and a suite of new shared educational resources. And in a spectacular polish to these achievements both Hamilton Public School and the Centre of Excellence have been recognised as finalists in the NSW Banksia Awards Minister’s Young Climate Champion category  

The Minister’s Young Climate Champion Award recognises young innovators aged under 18 years who bring bold ideas for a safe and thriving climate future that align with any of the UN SDGs. Young and passionate minds who have taken outstanding actions that benefit the sustainability of their communities and help address climate change will be showcased in this award, which is a celebration of young people with drive, commitment and a passion for sustainability and the environment.”

Mega congratulations to all involved.




Archie Action Case-study 2: Meet Amy Gill, a teacher with Youth Off the Streets and a passionate advocate for the role agriculture plays in teaching disadvantaged kids


Geography is increasingly being used in The Archibull Prize to teach agriculture through the Ecosystem of Expertise:

  • Building long term partnerships with best practice farms the students investigate and report on
  • Working with our Young Farming Champions to get a big picture understanding of the agriculture supply chain and the diversity of people and roles that feed and clothe us, supply us with ecosystem services and renewable energy

Today we chat to teacher Amy Gill from Youth Off the Streets to see how she makes the Ecosystem of Expertise work in practice.

Photo source 

Action4Agriculture first met Amy in 2018 when she was working at the newly opened Youth Off The Streets (YOTS) school The Lakes College (TLC). The independent school and its disadvantaged students participated in The Archibull Prize with Young Farming Champion Tim Eyes, visiting Tim’s The Food Farm as they learnt about the Australian beef industry.

For Tim, who has entertained children both in mainstream schools and at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, hosting the TLC students was an enjoyable and eye-opening experience.

“It was really refreshing having unfiltered, blunt questions – they were just very honest kids. They had real questions about red meat and feeding people under the poverty line so we spoke about exploring the secondary cuts such as mince, which is accessible, diverse, and quick and easy to use,” says Tim.

Read about the students highly inspiring journey here

Amy also took her Archies cohort to Grace Springs Farm in Kulnura, on the NSW central coast, and this was the beginning of an “amazing partnership”.

“In the end we formed such a strong relationship [with Grace Farms] that Youth Off The Streets decided to run a learning unit called Bee the Cure, centred around whether the decrease in bee populations can be remediated on a community level,” says Amy.

“Once that was finished, we continued to go out there every week and once I left that campus my colleagues continued the program, which is amazing.”

Originally, Amy took the pupils to the property to learn about sustainable farming.

“It was during the drought and we wanted to teach them the ways we could farm to make the most of the ecosystem and environment that we live in.”

“Last year, I reached out to Grace Springs with a plan for another project-based learning unit where one group would learn about beekeeping and another would go into the farm and do all the chores like picking up eggs, cleaning out the milking machine, transferring the birds around the paddock, and feeding pigs.

“It’s a hands-on experience and a breath of fresh air for the students. We can hug a cow or hold a chicken and it’s not going to judge you. That animal therapy is absolutely beautiful.”

Watch the very moving tribute to farmers the YOTS students created in 2018


Despite most of Youth Off The Streets students not coming from agricultural backgrounds, some are now considering careers in the industry and as Amy has moved to other campuses she continues to encourage those interested.

“One girl in my current class has found a real interest in farming through our ‘Archie’ discussions and is currently doing a personal interest project on livestock and beef. She’s considering being a cattle farmer. Until such options are put in front of them, they don’t know they exist because they live in a very isolated world with little opportunity.”

Amy, originally a drama teacher who now teaches across curriculum, says that projects like Bee the Cure demonstrate a link between geography and agriculture.

“They fit into geography and also a science module ‘Living World.’

Listen to Amy speak about her new program SOLAR (Schooling via Off-campus Learning for At-Risk students) and continued passion for her students here


Read more about the wonderful work Amy is doing at YOTS here 

The Archibull Prize is an example of project based learning. Listen to Amy talk about project based learning here

#ArchieAction #PartneredLearning #ProjectBasedLearning #YouthVoices #YOTS

Its Archie Action Time – Case-study 1: Meet Lorraine Chaffer who has a passion for geography and it’s ‘place’ in education

When Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley AM speaks people listen. Speaking recently in the media Jim was quoted as saying

“Agriculture as an industry doesn’t engage with the education system and it’s about time it did, otherwise we won’t have a workforce.

The dependence on itinerant workers and students participating in gaps years is a pretty shallow strategy. I can’t see that operating too long into the future. 

The organisations who are operating in the space must publish their results. If you don’t do it  you may as well not have done it because nobody knows about it.”

We are listening Jim and we look forward to sharing with the world the extraordinary impact our programs are having in Australian schools

For over a decade Action4Agriculture has connected school students to Australian agriculture through The Archibull Prize and Young Farming Champions. In that time a multitude of learning areas including science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) have been employed to deliver the program. Increasingly geography teachers are is embedding aspects of agriculture in the curriculum, as a direct result of participating in our programs, as it provides place and context to learning.

Lorraine Chaffer is the Vice President and ‘immediate past president’, of the Geography Teachers Association of NSW & ACT and has a passion for her subject. She realised there was often a lack of understanding about agriculture and that the opportunities and challenges that it presents are an important component of the geography curriculum.

“It’s all about STEM [or STEAM] now and our argument is that Geography is the perfect STEM subject because we tie it all together. With geography you can link the science etc to what’s going on at a place. Geography marries science and agriculture – it makes the learning authentic and linked to the real world through ‘place’,” she says.

To increase her agricultural knowledge Lorraine began attended an agricultural conference where she heard Young Farming Champion Dr Anika Molesworth speak on climate action.

“I saw Anika present at the Brave New World Agriculture to 2030 Conference in Sydney in November 2018. Much of what she said had links to topics in the NSW Geography Syllabus. I was impressed by Anika’s positivity about the future and her message about taking action and later found a TED talk she had made the previous year. The link to geography was very strong so I approached Anika, via Twitter, with a request to present at the GTANSW & ACT Annual Conference in Sydney – using a mix of her Brave New World and TED talks. We were not disappointed. Anika’s got the practical, common sense of a farmer and the science knowledge from her academic studies, but also ideas about what needs to be done about climate change.”

Through her association with Anika, Lorraine was connected with Lynne Strong and Action4Agriculture and realised the strong messages delivered through programs such as The Archibull Prize were a perfect fit for geography. She promoted the program through the official association journal, the Geography Bulletin and made Action4Agriculture the official charity of GTANSW & ACT.

The NSW Geography syllabus for Stage 5 (Year 9 and 10) has a content area centred around food, fibre and industrial production using the earth’s biomes. Lorraine says that her focus has been promoting geography as an issues-based subject that integrates issues related to agriculture and the underlying science on which sustainable agriculture and food security depend. The skills developed through a study of geography marry well with the transferable employment skills developed through programs such as The Archibull Prize.

“It’s great that schools are doing things that are not out of the textbook, such as participating in ‘the Archies’ and taking students to visit farms. This is demonstrating real world solutions to problems. And the great thing with geography, especially in NSW, is that we have great flexibility in what we do. We have a broad curriculum that says ‘okay, you’re talking about food production and biomes’. It’s not saying that everybody has to study rice. If there’s an issue around in agriculture in a particular year that’s what you can focus on.

Something I’m always on the lookout for is new resources, new ideas, and new ways of teaching the old stuff, but in a bit more of an exciting way. And if you can engage the kids and make them think about agriculture as an option in their future careers, open their eyes a little bit, then even better!”

To support teachers and geographers like Lorraine to incorporate agriculture into the geography curriculum Action4Agriculture establishes a two-tiered Ecosystem of Expertise:

  • Building long term partnerships with best practice farms the students investigate and report on
  • Working with our Young Farming Champions to get a big picture understanding of the agriculture supply chain and the diversity of people and roles that feed and clothe us, supply us with ecosystem services and renewable energy

Further case-studies in our geography series will look at three schools – The Lakes College (YotS), Eden College(YotS) and Pymble Ladies’ College (PLC) – and how they put the Ecosystem of Expertise into practice.

Opportunities in agriculture are the worlds best kept secret no more


#agricultureinthecurriculum #partneredlearning #ecosystemofexpertise #ArchieAction