Local sixth form students from St Philip Howard School in Barnham, Chichester, recently visited Tangmere Airfield Nurseries to gain a greater understanding of biology in action.

18 A-level biology students from St Philip Howard School swapped their classroom to spend the afternoon in a unique learning environment; a 10.5ha pepper glasshouse. The purpose of the visit was to illustrate key concepts through real-life examples and discover how environmental factors can affect a plant’s rate of photosynthesis.

The science of growing food

Listening to a talk by Crops Manager, Mark Knight, the students learnt more about how Tangmere use their knowledge of limiting factors; temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and light intensity, to increase crop growth in the glasshouses.

Plant friendly pest control

As well as looking at climate control, the students’ undertook a practical using a magnifying glass to investigate the small but hugely significant insects that form part of Tangmere’s biological pest control.

The tour also provided a chance to see the onsite electricity generating station – a massively productive and efficient farming system that uses the waste heat and carbon dioxide to increase the rate of photosynthesis and help grow more peppers.

Head of Science, Graham Jones, said of the visit: “The students were able to acquire knowledge that they can apply directly to their A2 syllabus. It’s really useful for us to refer back to the visit in our teaching; it puts plant biology in context and brings it to life.

Prior to the visit, the class had studied how different coloured lights and wavelengths effect the rate of photosynthesis, so to conclude the session the pupils were shown inside a special NPD glasshouse to see first-hand pioneering growing trials under LED lights.

Pepper growing contest

To further their learning, the teachers set the ultimate challenge to the students: a pepper plant growing competition. Back in the school lab, the students will measure and record weekly growth and compare their findings with Tangmere, who will share data on the plants grown in glasshouse. Potential prize categories will include largest plant and plant with most peppers on. May the growing challenge commence!

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