Wild Things at School
Wild Things at School
As the schools reopen we talk to the Council's Environmental Education Officer, Bernadine Carry about her work and what schools and their students can do to improve the environment in their areas.
Tell us about some of the initiatives I could take part in if I was a student in Meath?
We have a range of initiatives to appeal to environmentally tuned-in school children across the county. For whole School participation, Green Schools is out in front as the biggest and probably the best environmental programme for schools in the world. It is a 7-step programme which schools commit to, normally over a 2 year period. At the end, if successful, they will achieve a Green Flag for their school. In Ireland the programme is co-ordinated by An Taisce Green Schools Unit in conjunction with each Local Authority.
What does the 7 Step Programme entail?
Each participating school undertakes and documents the following 7 steps:
- Set up a Green Schools Committee
- Environmental Review
- Action Plan
- Monitoring and Evaluation
- Curriculum links
- Informing and Involving wider Community
- Green Code
They then submit their application, make tweaks where advised and are ready for assessments.
How many assessments would you carry out each year?
I would normally carry out 20 – 30 assessments each year and I am delighted to confirm that in all cases the schools have been successful in getting a Green Flag. For the most part schools go way above and beyond what is required of them once they get going!
Is there only one green flag?
No, the programme follows on with new themes for the school to engage in and achieve further Green Flags in Water, Energy, Biodiversity, Green Travel and Global Citizenship.
Is it the students or the teachers that drive this initiative?
One of the key features of the Green Schools Programme is that it is student-led. The students are the drivers in making, implementing, managing and enforcing measures across the school. It is not an additional set of rules imposed by the teaching staff. This ‘Ground Up’ approach is what makes it so popular and successful with students and teachers alike. Everyone has a role to play in making the Green Schools programme work.
There is a new programme starting in 2020?
‘PickerPals’ is a new programme that focuses, as the title suggests, on litter. We are doing this in conjunction with the environmental charity VOICE. The programme engages children through a story world, with programme specific readers and activity books given to every child in the class. A “Picker Pack” is also provided which contains a child and adult litter-picking tool to be taken home by a different student every week. The family then go on a litter picking adventure in their local area with the child reporting their activity back to their classmates. This has proven to be really popular in its pilot phase and we are expecting that it will work really well in Meath too.
Are there any initiatives for secondary school students?
Yes, we have ‘Relove Fashion' and ‘Really Rubbish Film Festival'. Relove Fashion is a competition aimed at secondary students, particularly those who have an eye for fashion and an interest in sustainability. We are running this in conjunction with the Rediscovery Centre.
Each participating school creates one or two outfits from old stuff – i.e clothes you have or can borrow from a friend, vintage or charity clothes, Granny's wardrobe, curtains or tablecloths! They then use their skills to upcycle the outfit into a stylish everyday outfit. They will also provide a storyboard showing why and how they went about their work and what their views are on sustainable fashion versus fast fashion which is very topical at the moment. The outfits will be displayed in Buvinda House and will be shortlisted for a Regional final at the Rediscovery Centre in November. The prizes are excellent and last year's participants really enjoyed the experience.
And can you tell us about the ‘Really Rubbish Film Festival’?
This initiative has been running for over 10 years and is aimed at secondary schools, TY students in particular. Each participating school (around 10 each year) learn how to brainstorm, design, edit and present a short movie on a subject of their choice with an environmental or ecological theme.
A two day workshop provides students with the required skills and digital media equipment to undertake the project. The movies are shown at a pop up cinema during the Guth Gaft Documentary Film Festival in Kells, followed by a Q&A with the participating students.
There is a deadline soon approaching for schools who would like to create a garden, when is this?
Each year Meath County Council provides grants through the Community Environmental Action Fund to schools who want to create a garden in their school. The closing date for applications is at the end of September.
What exactly are schools invited to do if successful with their application?
If the school is in a built up area which is tight for space they can use window boxes to grow food such as lettuce, onions and carrots. In rural areas, it can be a full blown food producing garden with potatoes, runner beans, carrots, parsnips, fruit trees, compost areas, wormery, bee garden and scarecrows. Regardless of the size of the garden, when you visit the school, the garden is the place of which the students are most proud and vocal, and where they learn to dig, plant, water, weed, harvest and appreciate food.
Finally anything else you would like to let local Meath schools know?
In addition to all these programmes the Council provides litter picking equipment and compost bins to all interested schools.
We also provide workshops from a range of providers focusing on environmental and ecological issues including Naturally Wild Biodiversity and Habitats, Beewise, Down to Earth Theatre, EcoUnesco, Leave No Trace, Centre for Climate Change, ReCreate, Refill Ireland etc.
For further details on any of the above initiatives or to get your school involved please contact Bernadine at firstname.lastname@example.org.