Flocking to EweTube

30th March 2007 at 01:00
Flossie the sheep goes online for pupils to learn about lambing

WITH LAMBING season approaching, you would think an expectant ewe would be taking it easy with a little grazing and some naps.

But not in Cambridgeshire, where Flossie the sheep has set up a blog, prepared an online discussion board and is getting ready to answer hundreds of emails from curious six-year-olds.

The "I Ask Ewe" project from Cambridgeshire education ICT service invites children to quiz Flossie about life in a field near Newmarket.

Gareth Davies, the online learning development manager for Cambridgeshire and owner of Flossie and 99 other sheep, manages the pages as one of the projects on the Starz learning platform, a restricted access website that key stage 1 and 2 pupils in Cambridgeshire can use at school or at home.

Mr Davies said: "Flossie is a real sheep but I take on her persona. There have been some fantastic questions.

"What is the difference between sheep's eyes and human eyes? Flossie had to think quite hard about that one.

"They asked what kind of food sheep ate, how big were lambs when they were born and did it hurt. That one I was not in the best position to answer.

But by and large sheep seem very phlegmatic about it, so I replied, 'No, not very much'."

He added: "Not a single child asked whether Flossie was really a sheep or how she could type."

Mr Davies, who keeps sheep as a hobby, admitted the five days around lambing are incredibly busy. He has booked time off at the end of April when his flock is expecting 50 to 70 lambs and answers the children's emails in his spare time.

"Most questions are asked before lambing starts but I can take the laptop into the fields with me," he said.

Schools can book visits to the farm to meet Flossie in the flesh. The project links to the national curriculum by helping key stage 1 children learn about questions, information technology skills and life processes.

Mr Davies does not shy away from the difficult matter of what happens to the lambs.

He said: "Most of the lambs do go off to be slaughtered for market. Most children seem completely matter-of-fact about it. They don't seem to have a problem linking the lambs in the field with the lamb on their plate."

Famous sheep Dolly the sheep: born 1996. The world's first animal to be cloned from an adult cell. She was put down aged six-and-a-half and is now stuffed and on display in the Royal Museum of Scotland.

Shaun the Sheep: star of the 1995 Wallace and Gromit film, A Close Shave.

He now has his own show on CBBC and in 22 countries around the world.

550 Border Leicester sheep featured in the 1995 hit film Babe, which tells the story of a sheep-herding pig.

Larry the lamb, the ovine star of Toytown.

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