Carnaun School Organic Diary – February 2007

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Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin presents the Digital Schools Award for “excellence in the integration of ICT in the Primary School Curriculum” to Conor Cooley, Mica M020, Aoife Maguire, Emma Rabbitte, Finbarr O’Regan and Natasha Daly

Kay Synott goes back to school to learn the real value of a school garden

Having followed the progress of the organic garden at Carnaun National School with great interest in this magazine, I was keen to see how the day-to-day running of a school garden by the students fitted in with the primary school curriculum and other activities. For the past two years I have been working together with parents and students at establishing a wildlife garden at St. Annin‘s National School in Rosscahill, Co. Galway, a visit to Carnaun NS would provide the yardstick to see how we have progressed.

It was a sunny November morning when I was met at the school gate by the 6th class students; they introduced me to Finbarr O’Regan, their school principal. Keen to get started I was whisked away by the students on a tour of their school grounds, a real treat!

First stop was the solar panel made from an old radiator. Each day it is set up and the temperature of the water in the panel is monitored by the students as an experiment. Next, I was shown the front lawn where the different trees and shrubs were identified and for what occasions they were planted. The students also explained about the local geology. Past the pumpkin patch we went onto the meadow walk, where I was told many interesting facts about the native and introduced species of plants that were growing there.

The tour led through the woodland grove to the wildlife pond where the children shared anecdotes with me of former students trying to jump across it for a dare and getting their feet wet. We carried on, amicably chatting away, past some young oak trees and a grassland area for wildlife to enjoy. Each student took it in turn to be the tour guide whilst trying to shake off their enthusiastic classmate whose turn it had been before them.

We strolled past a Norman keep, and walking back towards the school building I was shown the compost area and the organic vegetable garden. The children recalled what grew well for them during the last season and what didn’t. Further along was a bird-feeding area and the children were proud to point out that the lichen growing on the roof of the bird-feeding table was a sign of the high quality of the air around Carnaun. A cold-frame for growing on cuttings and another compost area almost completed the tour.

In the play yard one student was busy sweeping up autumn leaves. He explained how he was using them to make compost. The shelter in the play yard was painted with a colourful heritage mural.

During my visit I was struck by how confident, educated, mannerly and well-rounded the children were. Carnaun National School is proof that a school garden is an outdoor classroom and a resource for the teaching of many primary school subjects as well as encouraging environmental awareness in our younger generation. A school garden helps the students to become involved in their own learning of skills, knowledge and practical hands-on activity, which is encouraged throughout the curriculum. I hope that more schools will soon take up the challenge and start their own school garden, be it with some window boxes and other containers or on a larger scale.

I would like to thank the students of Carnaun National School and Finbarr O’Regan for their hospitality and for sharing with me their enthusiasm about the environment they have created.

Editor’s note: Kay Synott, Rosscahill, Co Galway is a qualified horticulturalist with a passion for organic food growing, wildlife gardening and environmental education. She has been involved in the Heritage in Schools program since 2010. The workshops offered engage children of all ages in practical, hands-on activities.

Minister Noel Treacy, Minister Mary Hanafin, Stephen and Andrew Muldoon and Shane Kelly planting a horse chestnut tree in Carnaun School last October


Sustainable Development in Carnaun School

Finbarr O’Regan, Principal, Carnaun National School, Athenry, Co Galway, Ireland has been pioneering Sustainable Development in his school for the past 30 years! The school is the only primary school in Ireland, and possibly in Europe, to hold an Organic Symbol for its garden and grounds and was one of the first schools in Ireland to be awarded the International Green Flag. Environmental Awareness has been part of the school for many years through integrated cross curricular practical projects.

Through Comenius Schools Partnership projects, funded by the EU under the Socrates Action, Finbarr and his pupils have visited schools in most of the European Countries with the project “l eat, therefore I am” where the topic of communication was food. This project is now incorporated in a new partnership project N.E.A.C. (Network of European Alimentary Culture) and the project website — has generated circa 700,000 visitors to date and is coordinated in Naples.

Editor’s note: This article was, one of many ,written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

Editor’s Note: – Eventually the N.E.A.C. project was presented in the United Nations in New York in 2008. It was also presented in 2006, at Terra Madre, Italy – a network of food communities, each committed to producing quality food in a responsible, sustainable way – where over 9,000 “slow food” delegates from all over the world attended.

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About this record

Written by Kay Synott

Published here 18 Feb 2024 and originally published February 2007

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