Ivan with the budding environmentalists
LAST year I had the privilege, of meeting the students and staff, of Coláiste Nano Nagle. Located in the heart of the city, on Sexton Street, the school was very interested in developing a wildlife garden, with a particular focus on helping declining pollinators. I was delighted to be invited back, to see the fruits of their labours, and also learn how they had spread the important message, of protecting nature, throughout the school.
A warm welcome awaited me, and we started off in the polytunnel, with the agricultural science teacher, and two of her students. These two students really impressed me, with their knowledge and enthusiasm, and are now equally proficient with the pen as well as with the garden fork.
The students started on the tunnel in Transition year. Their teacher explained that she met a little resistance, when it came to trying vegetables. But by the sixth class, they were all converted. One of the students commented that she now has a lifelong love for horticulture, and also loves the fresh and zingy taste of tomatoes.
They took great pride in showing me their packed folders that have been developed over two years, as part of their Agri-Science Leaving Cert. They have to do over 15 experiments including one with living plants. The tunnel was packed with vegetables from broad beans to potatoes.
The students were also doing an experiment, to see if there was a different growth rate, between certified and uncertified oats.
The home economics classes also use the polytunnel for their “grow to grow project”.
The student reused plastic soup pots for planting spinach and wooden spoons for labels.
As part of happiness week, they made delicious salads and smoothies using the vegetables from the tunnel.
Next I headed outside to meet the hard working students who have developed a biodiversity garden that is a home for bees, butterflies and birds. I was really surprised at their dedication, as all of the work is voluntary, and done during lunch break, and after school.
A great spirt of learning and cooperation pervades this class and garden.
Gardening teaches lessons for life and one of the best is that not everything grows to plan. Snowdrops planted in anticipation of visiting spring bees failed to materialize, but they will try them in pots this year. Also the weather can be challenging and aches/pains and a few blisters all add to the experience. Ivan the caretaker has also been inspired and is a great help and support to the students in developing the garden.
The next stage includes a water feature, with sensory plants, to reflect the needs of students with autism. Also a seat where students can relax and enjoy the sounds and sights of nature is on the cards; this contact with nature is good for their mental health.
The message has been spread, to the wider school and parents. On their open night they did a presentation, with message like bee-lieve and bee-hopeful.
Schools are never quiet and on Monday, six girls are off to NUI Galway to do a presentation for the opening rounds of the Young scientist competition. I got the chance to view their presentation, and learnt a few new facts myself, from the depth of their research.
An Taisce/Living Limerick. Making Communities friendlier for wildlife: Join An Taisce/Living Limerick and Westbury Community Group, as we discover how to encourage more birds, butterflies and insects. Meet outside St Nicholas Church from 10.30am- 12.30am on Saturday, April 13.
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