29 May 2022

Wild About Wildlife: Celebrating science week in Limerick

Wild About Wildlife: Celebrating science week in Limerick

The winners of the Science Week TY Quiz at Coláiste Mhuire, Askeaton

MY school days were a long time ago and the school environment has changed for the better over the years. My favourite subjects were science and especially biology and this was a part of the day where I really paid attention.

Our teacher was really interested in wildlife and one of the highlights of the week was his nature walks. I still remember his excitement and mine on seeing the first orange tip butterfly of the spring flying along the hedgerow near the school. His enthusiasm was definitely a positive influence on developing my passion for wildlife.

Natural connections and biodiversity go hand in hand. With school visits temporarily on hold live zoom workshops are helping to reach out to school communities, under the banner of science.

Recently I did a zoom workshop with the enthusiastic first year students and staff of Coláiste Nano Nagle in Sexton Street Limerick. We discussed discovering nature on their doorstep. First I met with the green school committee and these young environmentalist had lots of excellent ideas for the whole school to do.

The issue of what is a sustainable and healthy diet is very topical and what we eat can have a big effect on local wildlife and biodiversity across the world. Also they were thinking of looking at the amount of packaging that comes with online shopping. I see that in my own household and I use the cardboard as a natural mulch in the garden. In true democratic style they are putting these ideas to a vote in the school to see what project they will run with.

Next I did a workshop with the first years as they start their journeys in education and life. We looked at the major habitats in the city and some of the creatures that live there. The River Shannon has grey heron and swans. The Peoples park has blackbirds and a large urban rookery in spring. I often see robins in Clare Street Park and along the city streets pied wagtail and feral pigeons.

Creating new habitats for nature can happen in the school grounds. Erecting bug hotels, bat and bird boxes and planting small native trees like mountain ash, elderberry, hawthorn and holly. The last few slides of bats did not get a good reaction and this will definitely be a topic for a future workshop.

Later In the week I did a workshop with the students at the Doon Social Farm who are busy studying there QQI Level 4 organic horticulture students with their tutors Lisa and Maura. We did a biodiversity walk and demonstrated how to sow various species from seed in the farms new and comfortable propagation room.

The students learnt how to stratify the seeds. This mimics the natural process in nature where seeds fall to the ground in the autumn and get covered by leaves. They need a long spell of cold and rain to germinate in the spring.

They used pots filled with compost to sow crab apple pips, rose hips, acorns and sloes from the blackthorn. All of these trees are beneficial for wildlife and support bees, butterflies and birds.

It was a real privilege to interact with various classes and groups under the banner of science and biodiversity.

Thanks to Coláiste Nano Nagle and Doon Social Farm for supporting biodiversity as part of science week.

Thanks to Science Foundation Ireland for funding the project and Maria Walshe Lecture in LIT for all her help and support around promoting science and biodiversity.

For more, email or phone 089 4230502.

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