Imagine if that was the view from your school playground! How awesome would that be? When I went to school in Bangor we had a field that we were allowed to run around in during the summer months and that was the height of our connection with the environment. Don’t get me wrong my school was brilliant but what I’m trying to say is that a connection with nature wasn’t on the agenda in those days. In 2015 at Enniskillen Integrated Primary School in Fermanagh where the above picture was taken its a very different story. Myself, Martin Lawson and Anja Rosler from TCV Fermanagh visited the school on 20th of February to give them a helping hand towards their Eco Schools Green Flag award (learn more about Eco-Schools here http://www.eco-schoolsni.org/about.aspx).
The Integrated Primary has sped through the Eco-Schools program like it was on a mission! They started 3 years ago and have already achieved the bronze and silver awards. It began with one class looking after a few raised beds but now with some incredible enthusiasm from staff and pupils alike the whole school is involved in projects as diverse as recycling, gardening, energy efficiency and providing habitats for wildlife!
When we visited it was to work on a couple of new additions to the school grounds, a bug hotel and a willow dome! Myself and Martin explained to our primary 7 volunteers that a bug hotel provides nooks and crannies that shelter beetles, woodlice, bees, spiders and a whole host of other mini beasts. We started with a empty shell of random timber that TCV volunteers had just about managed to fashion together but with the help of the primary 7 troops it was turned into a 5 star establishment ( The kids thought it was closer to 10 stars but I thought that was a bit optimistic). Regardless of the star rating it was definitely fit for anything that creeps, crawls, flies or all of the above!
The willow dome was bent and twisted into shape by parents of the pupils who had graciously given up their time. Given a couple of years it’ll be a dwelling fit for a handful of hobbits/children and maybe a shorter than average teacher. These features may be the beginnings of a new nature trail at the school. Another avenue for getting children out into the outdoor classroom and narrowing the gap between them and the natural world.