Two-day workshops were organised for 20 high schools, and transportation provided to enable pupils from 136 primaries throughout Scotland to join in. In addition, a series of 20 one-day health & wellbeing days were organised for individual schools.
The programme engaged directly with more than 13,500 pupils, and interacted with 12,000 children at the Royal Highland Show. A further 25,000 pupils were reached through dissemination of class projects, via assemblies and other activity.
Seafood in Schools teaches children where seafood comes from, how it gets to their plates via the wider food chain, why it is good to eat as part of a healthy diet, and what different seafood tastes like. It offers in-depth insight into fishing, aquaculture, processing, marketing, exporting, economics and transportation, and encourages pupils to consider the range of careers available throughout the industry.
The project involves children of all ages, from nursery right up to high school leavers, including special needs, and many schools welcome the opportunity to use the project as a transition experience for older primary and younger secondary pupils. Students taking higher level hospitality courses are encouraged to mentor the younger ones, and those studying at local colleges are invited to help out with cookery sessions.
Workshops generally comprise three different activities. The first features a display cabinet of seafood manned by a Seafood in Schools coordinator, with a guest appearance by a local fishmonger, retailer, marine scientist, fisherman or fish farmer, all of whom pass on expert knowledge during the session. The second is a ‘come dine with me’ experience, which enables children to taste species high in Omega 3 and to learn why they are essential for good health. A final session involves a cookery demonstration or active cooking session for pupils, depending on the facilities available. Seafood in Schools has formally linked with the Chefs@Schools project, which assists in finding willing chefs.
Other local and national industry partners help by providing seafood for display and tasting sessions, and by maintaining contact to facilitate compulsory post-workshops projects.
Chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producer’s Organisation, Scott Landsburgh, said: “The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation is delighted to continue to support this fun and interactive programme. It is essential that children understand from an early age that eating a healthy balanced diet and taking regular exercise can give them the best start in life. Eating fish rich in Omega 3 such as salmon can offer many health benefits to people of all ages. We look forward to further workshops taking place later this year.”
Schools are encouraged to make outward visit to ports, vessels, fish farms, processors and retailers, to learn about the seafood industry at first hand, and the project covers the costs of transportation.
For instance, pupils from Lochaber High School worked with the head chef of the local Crannog seafood restaurant to design and develop new dishes for the restaurant, whilst a class from Lochyside Primary enjoyed a visit to a salmon farm.
Wallacetown Primary organised seafood tasting sessions for pupils, then asked them to vote for their favourite. Parental feedback showed that many children requested fish at home afterwards. A subsequent handling session enabled pupils to smell and touch mackerel, squid, plaice, prawns and langoustine, and encouraged children to find out more about seafood.
Mintlaw Academy pupils visited Peterhead harbour to watch the fish market in action, then moved on to see the harbour tower, lifeboat station and net repair factory to gain an understanding of the support services and jobs created by the fishing industry. They purchased haddock at the market to make fish pie, and enjoyed a talk by a representative from the Fishermen’s Mission.
First and second year pupils from Forfar Academy got involved in a new seafood product development project with Morrisons, with the aim of encouraging greater fish consumption. They visited the supermarket, and worked closely with a product development chef.
Following their workshop experience, each child filled out a questionnaire, and analysis of these showed an overall positive response to the content and its educational value. Asked what their favourite part of the workshop was, 46 per cent enjoyed tasting the seafood, 22 per cent liked seeing live fish and shellfish and holding them, and 20 per cent appreciated the cookery demonstrations or active cooking sessions.
76 per cent learnt something new about seafood at the workshops, 83 per cent tried a new seafood, and 71 per cent said that taking part in the event had changed how much seafood they now wanted to eat.
Evening community sessions were held at the majority of schools, at which parents and siblings experienced the same workshops and enjoyed some tasty seafood, many for the first time.
“These sessions help to reinforce messaging about the importance for all ages, of eating seafood,” explained Nicki Holmyard. “We also provided continuing professional development sessions for round 1000 teachers during the year, which means they are now more confident in using seafood as a context for learning in the classroom, and how to apply it throughout Curriculum for Excellence.”
The project, which is funded by Scottish Government, is also supported by Fish for Health, Seafish, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust and the Scottish White Fish Producers Association.
Scotland’s Food Minister Richard Lochhead said: “This has been a hugely successful year for Seafood in Schools and it is fantastic to see so many young people learning about fishing and aquaculture - where seafood comes from, how it reaches our plates and why eating it is good for us. This is key if we are to achieve our aims of Scotland becoming a good food nation, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government is continuing to fund this initiative, which is also supported by industry and local businesses.”
“We are grateful to all our sponsors, and especially to industry for enthusiastically visiting schools to work with the children, inviting them to their own premises, and providing product for tasting and cooking. We couldn’t manage without them!” said Nicki Holmyard.