Students starting conversations: New biosecurity management programs in schools

Agricultural and environmental professionals understand the importance of biosecurity in maintaining healthy and productive environments and produce. Monitoring, assessing and managing a variety of biosecurity threats are part of day-to-day business for farmers, gardeners and environmental managers. Unfortunately, the biosecurity story often doesn’t infiltrate into some of our largest and highest risk communities.

Starting with the next generation, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Schools Program aims to start conversations around biosecurity in schools, homes and communities through classroom activities which encourage education and participation.

Primary school students become biosecurity warriors

Investigate, DPI’s annual science and technology competition for Year 5 and 6 students, guides teachers and students through a biosecurity-themed investigation. Teaching and learning activities initiates learning about biosecurity management and topical biosecurity pests and inspires conversations in homes and communities throughout NSW.

In 2016, Investigate: fire ants engaged nearly 2,400 students in conversations about biosecurity and learning about red imported fire ants. There were impressive results in the inaugural year, with students creating a variety of engaging products to communicate their understanding of biosecurity and fire ants in their local community.

This year, students from metropolitan, regional and rural NSW schools will Investigate: aphids. Aphids are a significant problem for gardeners and farmers throughout NSW and Australia. In 2016, the Russian wheat aphid, an exotic pest, was found in three Australian states, including NSW. Due to its rapid spread it is now classed as an endemic pest species and may affect the productivity of NSW agriculture.

Students will investigate how they can keep aphids away and create an advertisement to persuade others to help in the mission of keeping these pests away from our gardens and agricultural crops. 2017 is shaping up to be an even bigger and better competition, so get your local schools and communities involved in becoming biosecurity warriors and register now (registrations close 25 February 2017, please contact the Schools Program for late registrations).

Biosecurity planning – a management program for high schools

A biosecurity planning for schools unit of work tailored to NSW biosecurity regulations and syllabus requirements is available for high school teachers and students. The unit supports students and teachers in developing their understanding of biosecurity and its importance in maintaining animal and environmental health at the farm, community and global level. The resource will guide the development of a biosecurity plan for school ag plots or selected agricultural areas. This resource is linked to Year 7-12 Agriculture and is now available to all schools on NSW DPI’s website.

Local schools and communities are encouraged to become involved and use the available resources. For more information please visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/education-and-training/school-resources, or contact the NSW DPI Schools Program at schools.program@dpi.nsw.gov.au

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