Marian Harkin, MEP, visits RETNS

On Friday, April 28th, we were delighted to welcome to our school  Marian Harkin, one of our Irish MEPs. Marian told the children she was honoured to have been invited and she was very impressed with the work they were doing. Ciara Corcoran, chair of the Student Council, welcomed Marian to our school, then to begin her visit Marian was treated to a beautiful performance of ‘May We Never Have to Say Goodbye’ from our choir.

 

 

A number of representatives from each class gave details of what they have been learning in the Blue Star programme, culminating in a spirited rap performance from sixth class detailing the achievements of many famous Europeans they have been learning about.

 

Marian spoke to the children about aspects of her work as an MEP and agreed to visit each class to take questions. Assembly concluded with all the children singing the European Anthem, ‘Ode to Joy’.

  

Celebrating Marian Harkin’s visit with the official Blue Star.

During the afternoon Marian made a visit to each class, taking questions from the children, which ranged from her favourite aspect of her work to her views on the effects of Brexit and whether she thinks there should be more women in Irish politics! 

Two representatives from the Blue Star programme also attended assembly on Friday and had a tour of the school to look at the children’s work. We are now looking forward to the culmination of our year’s work, our Europe Day celebration on May 9th.

Marian Harkin, MEP, and representatives from the Blue Star programme, Ryan and Isolde, listen intently to the choir performance.

 

Blue Star Programme. Leaf Hunt – Our eTwinning Project

Have a look at the PowerPoints created as part of the Leaf Hunt eTwinning project. The children really enjoyed taking part in the project and would love to do some more eTwinning in the future.

Leaf Hunt by groups from 2nd and 3rd Rathfarnham Educate Together

 Leaf hunt Sicicilian Primary school

As part of our Blue Star Programme each member of Third Class  researched a folktale from the country they had picked.  

Saul made a video at home of his story. Watch it here.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB2zPmJth_M&t=8s

EU Ambassador visits RETNS

Blue Star Programme

The 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome was marked in RETNS on Friday 24 March by a visit by the E.U. Ambassador, Mr. David Daly, his wife Aideen and their daughter Ceola.  Mr. Daly is presently E.U. representative for South East Asia, having previously been E.U. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Prior to this he represented the E.U. in Australia.  

Mr. Daly was initially greeted by a song “as Gaeilge” from the school choir.  He then heard members of the Student Council make a presentation on the history of the E.U.  Mr. Daly then spoke about his role as EU ambassador and took questions from children from all classes.  His answers covered topics ranging from the most important thing he does in his job (thinking!) to the things he most enjoys (working with people from all cultures) to his one time (continuing!) ambition to play for Sligo Rovers!

 Ambassador Daly’s wife Aideen and his daughter Ceola spoke to the children about what life was like moving from country to country every four years, the many good points as well as some difficulties, ie. missing family events at home etc.  Aideen also spoke in Irish to the gathering and referred to her love of Irish and how useful it  is at times to be able to speak a language that not many other people worldwide recognise! 

 The assembly then watched a sample of videos created by Sixth Class students on “Inspirational Europeans”.  Ambassador Daly made particular reference to the role of the EU in ensuring that a situation such as that experienced by Anne Frank, one of those inspirational Europeans, would never happen again.  

 The visit continued with a tour of some of the school’s EU displays and a brief visit to First Class, where Mrs. Daly read a Hungarian story to the children, who have recently been learning all about Hungary.

 The visit concluded with refreshments, including EU star cookies (!) in the staffroom.

 It was a great day at RETNS.  Photos attached.

by Aileen Cronin

            

VISIT BY EAMON RYAN T.D.

On Friday, March 10th, we had a visit from Eamon Ryan, T.D., also as part of our Blue Star programme. Our assembly began with the Student Council making a presentation with facts about the EU.  Deputy Ryan then addressed the whole school, speaking about the EU, why it was set up, how it has evolved and its benefits for Ireland.  He then took questions from each class group and the Green Schools’ Committee.  The questions covered a range of topics from life as a T.D. to his thoughts and opinions on more complex issues such as climate change and Brexit.  Deputy Ryan  then posed for photos in our School Hall and Wildlife Garden.  To finish the visit we sang our school song “Everyone Belongs”, the theme of which corresponds to the EU motto “United in Diversity “.

  

The Student Council presented some EU facts. 
Deputy Ryan answered questions prepared by the children.
  Chatting in the wildlife garden.

 

Deputy Ryan with our Student Council.

Blue Star Programme

 

As we mentioned last term, this year we are taking part in the Blue Star Programme, a programme designed to help students learn about the EU through fun, curriculum-friendly projects and earn a Blue Star Flag for our school at the same time! The Blue Star Programme aims to foster better knowledge and understanding of the EU, and how it affects our lives, amongst Irish primary school pupils through classroom projects and activities. The programme began with just 32 schools involved and this year has involvement from 755 schools nationwide.

Pupils of all ages, from primary schools all over Ireland, are challenged to get creative and think about Europe by carrying out simple, straightforward projects in relation to four key elements of the EU:

  • History
  • Geography
  • Culture and Creativity
  • Institutions of the EU

 The programme is designed to be curriculum friendly so it can fit in with lesson plans already in place and it encourages students and teachers to be as creative as possible in their project work, particularly in the use of online technologies and tools. It also aims to draw in the wider school and local community and to encourage parents to engage and get involved.

Each participating school is required to carry out projects and tasks that include information about:

  • the foundation and development of the European Union;
  • the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe;
  • the role of the EU: what it does and how its work affects the lives of European citizens;
  • participating schools are also required to hold a Europe Day event (on or around 9 May) where the school community showcases and celebrates its achievements throughout the year.

In RETNS we have already submitted our action plan and lessons have begun to address the different areas of the project. In history pupils will study topics such as Inspirational Europeans, Historical Hungarians and Famous European Explorers, along with Renaissance in Europe and World War 2 in senior classes. Geographical study will include a fact file on chosen EU member states and country facts on countries that have links to our own families. Some classes will study the natural features of some European countries while others will focus on the social aspect of these countries. The aim is to develop a sense of belonging to Europe and International communities and to encourage children to value and respect the diversity of peoples and become familiar with various ethnic, religious and linguistic groups in Europe.

For the cultural and creative aspect of the project classes will look at story/folk tales, songs/music, traditional dress, food, customs, art, language and games from a selection of European countries. In the Institutional Section, older children in particular will learn about the history of the establishment of the E.U. – it’s raison d’être, post war concerns about the need for greater co-operation between nations, the interdependence of peoples, etc. They will learn about the main EU institutions: Council, Commission and Parliament, and find out about a day in the life of an MEP.

As part of the project we have invited a T.D., an MEP and an EU. Ambassador, who have agreed to come to the school to talk to the children and answer their questions on aspects of the EU. The project will culminate in a Europe Day celebration, when we will be inviting parents, grandparents and members of the local community to get involved and to see our work, and we will take part in the National Handshake for Europe.

Students will record their learning in the Blue Star Programme in a variety of different ways. There will be PowerPoint presentations, drama re-enactments, art, map making, project work, mini concerts, displays, dress-ups, Skype links with a class in Europe, video and film making. There will be many opportunities to link this work with our Green Schools work on Global Citizenship and already we have created a display of stars in the hall, one star by every children setting out his/her wish for humanity, interspersed with twenty eight blue stars to highlight the role of the EU in seeking a just and peaceful world through co-operation between nations. Learning about the

We look forward to watching the project take shape and progress over the remainder of the school year and look forward to proudly displaying our Blue Star flag at the end!

Educate Together Ethical Education Conference 2016

Educate Together held its annual Ethical Education conference on November 25th and 26th. The theme of this year’s conference was Raising Student Voices and students took centre stage on Friday evening as representatives from both primary and second level Educate Together schools took part in Ireland’s first ever StudentMeet.

The conference was officially opened by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., who said:

 

“I am delighted to launch Educate Together’s conference this evening. Educate Together is at the forefront of educational innovation and the movement combines excellent teaching standards with values of social justice and human rights.”

 

The Minister went on to say how impressed he was to hear students sharing ideas and initiatives which they have led in their schools and he spoke of how heartened he was to see students take such an active role in their schools.

 

During the StudentMeet representatives from a number of student councils, including Rathfarnham ETNS, gave a rundown of why their involvement in their school’s student council is important, not just to themselves but to the whole student body in their school, and outlined some of the initiatives which student councils concern themselves with. The confidence and competence with which these students spoke brought the theme of the conference to practical reality. In his later address to delegates at the conference, Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together, said that,

 

“Ethical Education is all about the primacy of creative and critical thinking, of students taking responsibility, becoming self-aware and being equipped with the skill to become active, respectful and responsible citizens in a rapidly changing world.” 

 

A keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children.

 

See www.educatetogether.ie for more details of the conference.

Raising Student Voices

Elections have finished, the counting is over, and our new student council members for 2016/2017 are looking forward to their important role in the school.

The student council has been a very important part of life in RETNS since the very first council was formed in 2000. A lot of work was done at the time in drawing up the Rules and Constitution for the student council and these Rules and Constitution still govern the student council today.

Each year a new student council committee is elected from among the student body, to consist of 12 children, five from sixth class (who also represent JI-2nd), three from fifth and two each from fourth and third.

Over the years the student council in RETNS has raised the student voice in a number of ways. Members of the student council have been active in numerous projects within the school and they have also made contacts outside of school; with other Educate Together schools, by sending letters to newspapers and to public figures or by inviting visitors to the school, such as the Garda Band last year. The student council organises a fund-raising event each year and they have raised considerable amounts of money for worthy causes of their choice. Over the years members of the student council have helped to bring about many of the changes that students in the school require, they have taken on responsibilities and challenges which have helped them grow and mature, and, above all, they have succeeded in achieving their primary aim, which is to get all of the children’s voices and opinions heard.

The theme of this year’s Educate Together Ethical Education Conference, to be held on November 25th and 26th, is Raising Student Voices. Teachers and educationalists will discuss whole school strategies and classroom activities that will encourage students to speak up and have their voices heard. They will also consider ways to encourage schools to facilitate student-led learning.

RETNS student council has been invited to the StudentMeet part of the conference to meet student council members from other Educate Together schools and to have an opportunity to share initiatives and innovations which they have introduced into their schools. Our students are very much looking forward to this opportunity.

Membership of the student council is not the only way in which students in RETNS can have their voices heard. Over the years a number of other committees have been formed from among the student body which allow students to have a say in many different aspects of school life. The Green Schools Committee is a popular choice for those who are interested in the environment and in helping our school to maintain its Green Flag status. Interested students prepare a speech which they deliver to their classmates and some adults, who then choose the committee members for the year based on the content of the speeches. An ICT Committee is open to those with an interest and/or expertise in technology. Students are invited to apply for this committee, stating their interest and ability in this area. The committee has taken responsibility for the Kids’ Blog and members are also involved in organising polls and ICT based competitions. Our newest committee is the Sports Committee, which will appeal to those with an interest in sport, and which will involve promoting sport throughout the school. When students reach fifth and sixth class they all have the opportunity to participate in the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors Team, which gives them an opportunity to build relationships with younger children, use their initiative in organising activities and be part of a Day of Action each term. This team has been the source of great ideas for improving relationships within the school and enhancing the wellbeing of students. This term’s Day of Action will be a Partners’ Day, to be held shortly.

All our committees seek to give our students a voice in the running of the school, but outside of committees all of the students are free to suggest improvements or different ways of doing things and many of our students are delighted to put forward their ideas, either to the committee members or to staff. At the moment, due to the work of the student ICT committee, children are also getting a chance to see how and why a policy is made. The students realised that there is a need for a policy/guidelines in relation to comments posted on the Kids’ Blog. The have set about formulating a policy by issuing a survey to students, staff and parents. The committee will then devise guidelines based on the responses received. An opportunity to see democracy in action!

School committees do not appeal to all children, but all children still have a voice in the school and there are many ways in which this student voice can be encouraged. Classes frequently have whole class or group discussions on various topics, where children are encouraged to voice their opinions and hear the opinions of others. They often get an opportunity to meet people from outside the school and to ask them questions about their life and work. Learning strategies such as circle time, values line and conscience alley are used to help children reflect, clarify their thoughts and make informed decisions. And at all times throughout the day children are engaged in talking about their work, making decisions about their learning and evaluating their own performance. Hopefully, through these early experiences of expressing their opinions and having their views valued, these students will become well-rounded young people who will be confident about themselves and their choices in life and well equipped to take an active role in society.

(See also http://retns.ie/principalsblog/2013/11/14/a-short-history-of-retns-student-council/ and http://retns.ie/principalsblog/2014/11/27/the-voice-of-the-child/)

img_9730  Student Council 2016-2017

Samhain – A Celebration

Samhain – A Celebration

Billy

Failte romhaibh go dtí an ceiliúradh seo.

We are celebrating the ancient Irish feast of
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Samhain. Our Celtic ancestors celebrated the end of the year with dressing up, lighting bonfires and dancing to music. They were also celebrating Harvest time and a time of fullness and plenty .

The people of ancient times split the year in half and Samhain was the end of the light half and the start of darkness.

We are keeping the ancient tradition today by celebrating the fading of the light with fire and dance.  In the Wildlife garden, we  have also placed our new sun dial donated by last year’s 6th class and the sculpture of a bird house donated by  Ian Pollock (Luka’s dad).

Jessie:The bird house and sundial are symbols of our closeness to nature. Just like our ancient ancestors we are dependent on Nature. We also celebrate Samhain  by looking  at some of the fruit and nuts from our garden -apples, nuts and berries. These will sustain birds and animals during the Winter months. 

(Anne B. holds up fruit and nuts)

Go raibh maith agat, Anne. Now we will have a short dance from Saga, Crea, Annabel and Grainne.

(Dance -Mary C. and Orlaith bring on Group from 3rd class and Saga)

Jessie:The ceremony will finish with a poem by 2nd class to celebrate the modern tradition of Halloween. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Bíodh Samhain Shóna agaibh!!

(Poem By 2nd Class-Brian and Petrina)

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Mindfulness Monday in RETNS.

 

In a world where stress is cited as one of the greatest occupational hazards, mindfulness based practices are invaluable for adults and children alike… Inviting mindfulness into the daily lives of children increases their capacity to become still and feel good about themselves. Mindfulness based practices are simple yet profound and create a solid foundation on which to build self-worth, compassion and understanding.

www.mindfulnessmatters.ie

dscn1177

As part of our recent Wellbeing Week most classes sampled the practice of mindfulness and we intend to continue the practice with our Mindfulness Monday initiative. Mindfulness is becoming a highly recommended practice for children and adults, and many of our staff members have completed courses in mindfulness and are aware of its connection to wellbeing. Mindfulness for schools is associated with the SPHE programme, specifically the strands of Myself and Self-Identity. It is claimed that mindfulness practice has been shown to enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and improve concentration. There are a number of websites dedicated to mindfulness in schools, including www.mindfulnessmatters.ie and www.mindfulnessinschools.org.

According to mindfulnessinschools.org, mindfulness differs from some other forms of meditation as instead of encouraging a person to clear their minds, it asks them to concentrate on their thoughts and focus on what surrounds them without allowing themselves to get distracted.

Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, Mark Williams, says that using mindfulness to become more aware of what’s going on around us can help to alleviate the “tunnel-vision” we develop when bustling between daily activities. ‘Mindfulness offers us the chance to take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate each sensation, feeling and emotion that affects us and respond appropriately to them. By doing this, we can move forwards with a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us.’

In 2012 an academic study was conducted by Katherine Weare, emeritus professor at Exeter and Southampton universities. Looking at the impact of mindfulness on children and young people, the study found that mindfulness helps to develop cognitive and performance skills. In turn, this then leads to children becoming more focused in the classroom and paying closer attention to their studies. (www.mindfulnessinschools.org).

Mindfulness can be a simple technique that only takes a second. Some classroom activities promoted at the teacher training on mindfulness include asking children to take out their copies mindfully, write mindfully, colour mindfully or sit mindfully. In this way they are more fully present to the activity and therefore more focused and able to learn. A mindfulness posture can set the scene for listening; being ‘alert yet relaxed’. Children may be asked to focus on their breathing. Focus on breathing and body awareness is an integral part of mindfulness, again helping us become more aware, more present.

Mindfulness can be used for all kinds of situations and with different intentions. Children can be asked to take a silent moment to listen to the sounds around them, they can be asked to become aware of the pictures and personal stories in their mind, focusing on times when they were resourceful, confident or pleased with themselves. They can then re-create this in the present. When a child is anxious, stressed or ‘in a bad place’ they can be asked to become aware of it and then think of a favourite piece of music, let it play in the mind, and see how they feel afterwards. Visualisations can help children to let go of stressful thoughts or experiences, or they can write their stressors out, crumple them up and dump them. Children can go on mindfulness walks, being aware of what they experience through their senses as they walk.

Parents who are interested in exploring this area in more detail might like to check out www.mindfulnessmatters.ie for more information and a range of Irish resources, podcasts, etc. on the topic of mindfulness.

I asked some children in 5th class for their thoughts on mindfulness.

Mindfulness makes the rest of my day more relaxed.

It clears my mind from my worries.

If you’re really stuck at something, like in maths, a quick 10 second mindfulness break is really good.

It gets down stress.

It makes you feel like a better person.

Mindfulness colouring helps you get your mind working at the start of the day.

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Well-Being Week

Well-being Week

‘Well-being means feeling strong in our minds and bodies, having energy, getting along with and helping others, knowing our strengths and feeling proud because we are doing our best. It means we can cope with the little problems and disappointments of life. It means enjoying life, being grateful for what we have and accepting ourselves just as we are!’

Quote from Weaving Well-Being, Fiona Forman and Nick Rock

 

Many programmes and practices exist in our school to enhance the well-being of pupils and staff, and our hope is that these will lead to a positive learning and working environment for all. Through our committees and other opportunities for student participation in the life of the school we are committed to listening to our students and providing them with ways in which they can build their self-esteem, solve problems, resolve differences, develop supportive relationships and become active and responsible citizens in society. This work continues throughout the year and permeates all aspects of school life. It has been well documented recently that enhancing well-being brings benefits to other areas of life; better academic performance, greater sociability, better ability to cope with the ups and downs of life. It has also been said that success follows happiness rather than the other way around – an interesting viewpoint for those involved in enhancing the well-being of children.

During Well-Being Week teachers will explore with children, at an age appropriate level, what is meant by well-being and what are the implications of taking care of our well-being in our daily lives. They will help children to realise that well-being is linked with feeling good in our body and mind and that it helps us cope with the ups and downs of life and increases our resilience to setbacks and failures, helping us to bounce back and start again. Children will be given tools to develop character strengths and boost positive emotions and they will explore, through a range of activities, ways in which they can empower themselves and make well informed decisions and choices. Well-being will be discussed in terms of friendship, caring for others, feeling part of a community. Other aspects to be explored will be the link between well-being and healthy eating, exercise and sleep, and the importance of being able to switch off our busy minds for a while and feel calm and peaceful, and present in the moment (mindfulness).

Our senior pupils will have an important role during Well-Being Week as they will support the younger children on the playground, building relationships and being role models for the type of behaviour we expect in school. Through taking on responsibilities and assuming ownership for their school, our senior pupils are invaluable in promoting a positive well-being culture throughout the school.

We look forward to a positive year ahead, where we will build relationships, support each other as a team and help to foster in our pupils a sense of care and respect for themselves and others, creating a school in which pupils feel safe and happy and are motivated to learn and achieve to the very best of their ability.

Odd Sock Day - Celebrating our diversity and uniqueness
Odd Sock Day – Celebrating our diversity and uniqueness.