Carnaun School Organic Diary – October 2006

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To mark their last day in primary school Melissa Langan, Róisín Qualter, Michael Mullins and David Williams plant a horse chestnut with Garda Gerry Fahy from Athenry Gárda Station.

Cultivating lads and tending weeds

Once the children go on holidays school is a very different place. It is not really a school at all, just a building and grounds that need maintenance. We have past pupils who come to earn a few “bob” cleaning and painting and mending so there is something happening most days when I come to look after the garden which is looking very well indeed this year.

I find mowing the lawns and weeding a big change from the classroom and the fine weather this summer brought many little helpers to make the work more enjoyable.

Happy visitors

Summer is a time to sit in the sun and reminisce! We get lots of visitors during the school year and we show them around the organic garden and the school heritage trail. They are introduced to our organic way of life. We tell then about the Organic Symbol and the importance of having “Organic Status”. We show them why it complements our work for Sustainable Development and why the International Green Flag and our Alternative Energy projects are so important to us.

We explain about the laws of nature, food chains and ecosystems. We teach them all about pond life, the rotation of crops, about birds and insects, flowers and weeds and the balance needed in our work with nature in order that we can live a healthy life and leave behind a healthy world for generations to come.

And the visitors are delighted and so enthusiastic about our work and we get compliments – “It’s beautiful — the children are all wonderful – a lot of work has gone into this — we must start a garden at home” and they go forth resolving to change their lifestyles to eat only organic food in future and rid the world of pesticides and be better and more responsible citizens. We are delighted and we feel good also. We feel we have done our bit for society!

Barbed comments

But now and again we get “Well that was lovely! Aren’t you great! But then, you have such a big area around you school so it’s easy for you to have a school garden”! Or “the number of children in the school is small so it’s easy for you to do this”! So, we patiently explain that you can have a vegetable garden in buckets and window boxes; that we have designed a roof gardens for a huge schools in New York so the size of the area is not really important and that as we do not have a regular caretaker we do all the work ourselves so that small numbers are not an advantage at times.

And then very occasionally we get “You are wonderful but when do you get time for your schoolwork”. We are ready for this sharpshooter also. This question is loaded! It needs to be treated with the respect reserved for a deadly snake or road rage! You are in a “no win” situation here. Invariably they do not want an answer. Theirs is a statement of fact – it implies that our school is in some way inferior to the one they attended or the one their children now attend. It comes with a “chip on the shoulder” or a need to put a person down.

Developing the whole child

Our answer, while it is directed at the questioner, is more for the benefit of the general audience and it explains that all our projects are cross curricular, child-centred and integrated. We show them where language, maths, technology, science and the other primary school subjects are a part of the work at one time or another and that our standard in all aspects of our work is excellent. Work in the organic garden gives the children responsibility and ownership of their work. It helps them to think and work independently. An audience is important and being able to talk about their work with visitors gives them the confidence to go on to do better things in life. The primary school curriculum is not about what page in a text book a child is at. It is not about “cramming subjects” nor is it about the “points system”. It’s about the child’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and this is enabled in sustainable development and the organic way of life in Carnaun School.

Answering critics

Our answer also explains that all schools, even our own humble one, excel in different ways. We work with and have visited many schools throughout the world and we know that primary schools in the west of Ireland are second to none. This implies that they are extremely lucky that their children are attending one of the top schools in the world and that they themselves are privileged to be visiting one also. But with this minority you may as well be “talking to the wall” because some people do not and will never have the ability to recognise genius even when it is staring them in the face.

However, we are very lucky that this type of person is rare and that the majority of visitors are very supportive of our efforts!

Finbarr O’Regan, Principal Teacher

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!

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About this record

Written by Finbarr O'Regan

Published here 18 Feb 2024 and originally published October 2006

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