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Boarder Tilly (Year 9) generously shared her knowledge of cotton growing with Year 3 this week, prompting lots of questions!
Growing up on a cotton farm in Hillston, Boarder Tilly in Year 9, knows a thing or two about cotton. With the support of TAS Teacher Ms Noosha Jalili, and Deputy Principal (Academic Learning) Ms Diana Drummond, Tilly gave a fascinating presentation to Mrs Smith and Ms Ridehalgh's Year 3 students, enlightening them on “how to grow a pair of jeans!”
Ms Jalili kicked off the class by explaining that Australia produces some of the best cotton in the world and is highly valued by cotton spinners in export markets for its colour, strength, fibre length and lack of contamination.
She showed the students a real-life cotton boll, Cotton plants briefly grow pink and cream coloured flowers that once pollinated, drop off to be replaced with ‘fruit’ or cotton bolls.
Ms Jalili opened up the cotton boll to reveal the fluffy white lint that we’re all familiar with, as well as a number of cotton seeds. She then handed around cotton pads, so the girls could compare the texture and colour of the pads with the cotton boll. “It’s amazing to think that this is turned into the clothing I am wearing right now,” said Ms Jalili.
Before Tilly started her presentation, Ms Drummond asked the girls what they were hoping to learn. They wanted to know how much water a cotton plant needs to survive. What is the life cycle of a cotton plant? What season is cotton harvested?
As Tilly explained, “Cotton does not come off the back of sheep.” She showed the girls some slides of her cotton farm in Hillston, which is located in western New South Wales next to Australia’s fourth-longest river, the Lachlan. The location is important, she said, because cotton fields need decent irrigation.
She then explained the life cycle of a cotton plant. Her family starts off by doing some groundwork, preparing the soil so that they can plant the cotton seeds in spring. They then harvest the cotton in summer. While cotton prefers hot summers with low humidity and a maximum amount of sunshine, it’s been pretty hot on Tilly’s farm this summer. “We’ve been getting temperatures of up to 50 degrees,” she said.
Given the severity of the drought, Tilly’s family have only planted cotton crops on one of their two farms this year, so that her family can have an income. As Tilly explained, Australian cotton farmers have learned to be extremely water efficient, producing the most environmentally-friendly cotton in the world.
The cotton is picked using large mechanical harvesters and pressed into huge yellow bales, most of which will be shipped overseas to be spun, dyed, knitted and woven into fabrics like clothes and home furnishings.
Tilly said that once the lint and fibres have been removed from the cotton seed, the remaining product is a highly digestible source of protein and a popular stock feed for sheep and cattle.
It was great for our Year 3 students to not only understand how cotton is grown, but to also see that cotton farmers are people like Tilly’s family, who live and work in local, rural communities across Australia, producing the cotton that becomes the clothes we wear.
Earlier in the week, Year 3 revisited 3D objects and explored the differences between 3D prisms and pyramids, by building their own 3D objects, which was harder than it looked!
All in all, it’s been a great week of learning for Year 3!