We took one outside space at the side of the school, listened to a talk on garden design by Milan, a parent in the school, and set to work. This is the result, a collection of garden designs that would make most garden designers proud. Not only are they colourful and show great resourcefulness, they also show evidence of a lot of thinking, planning, researching, and a great deal of hard work. Some reflect the wishes of their creators (in one design the space is taken over entirely by a football pitch!), others display the talents of a garden designer and have created a space that could well become our school garden in the future. For some of the younger children in particular, a space to play and climb was important, and those elements were incorporated, while for older children it provided an opportunity to develop their IT skills; the gardens created in Minecraft show a great proficiency in the programme. We could be tempted to overlook the 2D drawings, but the judges didn’t as they made particular mention of the level of detail that went into some of these drawings. It would be unfair to pick out just some of the entries, so here they all are in a slideshow giving you a chance to appreciate the talent of these young garden designers.
Please be patient as some of the pictures take a few moments to load.
“To learn to read is to light a fire.” Victor Hugo.
We have just celebrated book week in Ireland and internationally. What is the purpose of book week? The cynical among us will say it’s about selling more books but if we go beyond that cynicism and look at the faces of children enraptured by a brilliant story being read to them or sitting cross-legged browsing the latest book by a favourite author, we will know that the gift of reading is one of the greatest lifelong gifts we can give to our children, and why not celebrate that?
During Book Week in our school children were immersed in the world of reading through a variety of activities ranging from storytelling to story reading, silent reading to buddy reading, browsing in the book fair to having time in their own school library. The children took part in a range of book related writing and drawing activities and even had a visit from a well-known children’s author, Malachy Doyle, whose books are on the bookshelves of their classrooms. All of these activities were intended to promote reading and the love of books. Even without book week, all the reading related work of the normal school day has as its aim not just to help children ‘learn to read’ but to encourage the enjoyment of reading as an end in itself. Gone are the days when children lined up around the teacher’s table and read aloud in turn from a ‘reader’. Now, while reading aloud is still part of the curriculum and a valuable skill in itself, the reading lesson could involve talking to a group about what has just been read, asking them to summarise a chapter and make predictions about what might happen next. They might be asked to answer questions based on a story to check for understanding or do a related written task such as make up a poem or slogan based on the story, do a drama activity or some art work. They might do some research on a related theme, make a 3D model of part of the story, write a letter to a character or to the author, make up a quiz, crossword or word search based on the story for others to complete, or do a sequencing or cloze activity. The list is endless. One thing is certain; reading is not just about learning words, it is about engaging with a text on a deep level. For this reason there is a constant revision of the texts we are using to ensure that they are up to date and relevant to the children’s lives, as well as including some timeless classics that are still a joy to read. Some of the reading can even be done on computer using such excellent programmes as Reading Eggs and Reading Express.
So, will all these activities combine to instil in children a love of reading that will stay with them for life? Can books still hold that ‘magic’ for children that some of us experienced as children? One of my own fondest memories from my schooldays was when the library van arrived at the school with a whole new set of books to explore, especially if I was in the group chosen to pick the books. But then I had no tablet or game console to keep me amused. Today’s children’s authors are producing quality books for children yet they have to compete with the whole world of digital media. But to quote American author May Ellen Chase, “There is no substitute for books in the life of a child”. Books have to be introduced when the child is young; there is no nicer time to bond with a child than at bedtime story. If children grow up with stories and see their parents reading and valuing books, then there is a good chance that they too will see the value in reading. A book can be a friend, a companion, an inspiration, a refuge in difficult times, a source of hope or a passport to knowledge. Books are a way to open up the world for children; let’s hope we will always give them the incentive and motivation they need to choose books and the gift of reading.
The school’s anti -bullying ambassadors are continuing their campaign to raise awareness of bullying and to promote the message ‘It’s good to tell’. At senior assembly on Friday they launched their slogan campaign: classes are invited to come up with a suitable slogan which will be displayed prominently in the school and will be used on worksheets, etc. A pupil forum was also held at which the pupils gave their input for the upcoming review of the school’s anti-bullying policy. There was a very mature discussion and consideration of the issue with some very salient points put forward. The pupils’ views will be taken forward to the working group who are drafting the new policy. The pupils’ input is invaluable in this process as they are the ones ‘on the ground’, who know about the real issues surrounding the problem of bullying and who are seeking solutions that work for them. We look forward to seeing their work to come up with a good anti-bullying slogan for our school.