Primary tots take tatties seriously

16th March 2012 at 00:00
Potatoes, farming skills and maths are all being cultivated in a unique contest, says Julia Horton

Hundreds of Scottish schoolchildren are pinning their Olympic hopes this year on the humble potato.

More than 1,000 pupils in the northeast are going for farming gold in a competition to grow the best Olympus spuds. The aptly-named variety is a high-yielding maincrop seed potato which has been donated to all primaries taking part in the 2012 Totally Tatties contest.

A total of 40 schools in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray have signed up to receive seed packets and education packs. Most will have the chance to work with a local farmer on the project, which is being run by the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative (RNCI).

The cross-curricular contest, launched last month, has a strong focus on mathematics. It is particularly targeted at children working towards the first level in numeracy in Curriculum for Excellence in P2, P3 and P4.

There are two disciplines, one for the heaviest crop and the other for the best project overall. Winners will be announced on 25 June.

Sheila Stuart, the RNCI project officer, described the response to the project so far as "tremendous", with a total of 1,431 pupils registering interest in the competition.

Briefings were held last week for teachers and farmers to discuss the project and collect their complimentary resources. Guest speakers included Kyrsten Black, dean of the Scottish Agricultural College, Craibstone Estate, and Andy Steven, an agronomist at crop management company Agrovista.

The Olympus potatoes were donated by suppliers the Higgins Group, while a range of other companies are supporting the project. ACT Scotland is sponsoring seed pots and Forth Resource Management donated compost for the potatoes.

The RNCI aims to promote awareness of the countryside through education and help children and their teachers to develop a greater understanding of farming and the working countryside.

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