Monthly Archives: April 2015

Little Woodland Heights Project

We are very fortunate to have been chosen to take part in the pilot for an exciting project, Little Woodland Heights, described as ‘an interactive work for children exploring the world of forest canopy ecology and the function of music as translative epistemology’.

The project itself was developed in association with the Arts Council of Ireland, the Ark Cultural Centre for Children and the California Academy of Sciences, and took the form of an ‘immersive learning environment’ spanning cross-disciplinary topic areas in the Sciences and Arts. It involved aspects of ecology and botany, and also music composition, performance and literacy, sound art, visual art and creative thinking. There was a very clear collaborative element to the work and the pupils’ thoughts and ideas were central to the final piece.

The eight-session programme was comprised of six development sessions and one forest research field trip, concluding with a final performance. The field trip to Massey Woods took place over a full day and was one of the highlights of the programme. Many of the children were fascinated by the fact that trees and plants can communicate with each other through an underground network, which they delighted in calling the ‘wood wide web’. Through the experience of looking and practising the art of listening, the wood itself  provided the inspiration for the final music and art pieces.

The final performance of the programme drew together all that the children had learned and experienced into a special composition, created and performed by themselves with woodland ‘instruments’, sticks and logs, and with human voice. The final piece was approximately 30-40 minutes in duration and was performed in front of an audience in the Ark, and again for a school audience in our own grounds. The school performance included a tree planting ceremony in which the children planted their chosen tree while their performance was taking place. A plaque was then placed in the ground beside their newly planted tree.

A full score pack of the Little Woodlands Heights Project has been sent to the school. The acknowledgements in the score pack pay great tribute to the children of third class, their teachers and the school for facilitating the pilot version of the project, ‘and for being such a shining example of the education system working to its true potential.’

We certainly feel that the children of third class have been part of a very special experience.

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Ethics and the Environment

Ethics and the Environment is Strand 4 of the Learn Together curriculum in Educate Together schools and its stated aim is:

To develop in children a knowledge, appreciation and respect for their environment and to empower them to take an active role in its stewardship.

In this strand we want to help children become aware of their responsibilities towards their immediate and global environment and to understand the inter-connectedness of all living things. We also address the wider aims of Ethical Education in encouraging children to develop critical awareness, to make ethical decisions, to consider questions of sustainability and active citizenship and, hopefully, to become empowered to make a difference by taking positive, active and dynamic roles in the stewardship of ethics and the environment.

This is an area which, as well as being taught specifically within the Learn Together programme, also lends itself to cross-curricular work, and indeed does permeate a lot of day to day learning as we are all called on from time to time to make ethical decisions in relation to our care of the environment.

Our participation in the DLR sponsored Green Schools Programme is an area that relates directly to our Ethics and the Environment strand and we strive continually to maintain and improve our status as a ‘Green School’. To this end we have so far attempted to raise awareness of how we can reduce and reuse/recycle our litter and waste, conserve our precious resources of water and energy, make more use of ‘green’ modes of transport, and, most recently, consider how we can help to sustain and support biodiversity, for which efforts we have just been awarded our fifth green flag.

Our work towards the biodiversity green flag was in some ways the most challenging so far as many children had not even heard the word ‘biodiversity’ before commencing this work. Many of those who had heard the word were not at all sure of what it meant, while others had a vague idea. Some other children, through their own reading, research and interest, did know what biodiversity was about and they became valuable teachers of others in their classes and throughout the school. Our green flag was received thanks to the great work of these children, the staff and parents, who helped raise the percentage of those who didn’t understand the term biodiversity from 37% to 91% in a few months.

Through all their work children have come to a better understanding of the ‘web of life’ and how we are all inter-dependent, and to realise more fully our need to respect all of nature. Our very successful Green Schools Action Day, when all the children took part in the Biodiversity Hat Parade, really demonstrated how far the learning has come in this area, and having received the green flag for our efforts we aim to continue to educate children in being good global citizens, to help them realise the value and uniqueness in every living thing and to understand our constant need to respect and cherish our precious environment.

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Fourth Class exploring the local environment