BY CON DOWNING
ONE of two local projects being championed by The Southern Star for this year’s Get Involved competition, run by Local Ireland and sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), is a garden initiative at a Skibbereen school.
The Get Involved initiative was developed four years ago by Local Ireland, a group that represents 51 local newspapers and each of the projects is paired with one of these local news brands. The partner newspaper provides coverage of the projects as work progresses.
In 2016/17 the winning projects will share a fund of €10,000. However, above and beyond the competition, Get Involved is about encouraging people to take positive action and to become responsible for their local areas.
Local Ireland’s newspaper members, including The Southern Star, and competition sponsor, SEAI are extremely proud of Get Involved. The initiative brings clear benefits to local economies and the environment by helping communities to become low-carbon, resource-efficient and economically resilient.
Judging will take place next April-May with the judges, led by environmentalist and broadcaster Duncan Stewart, visiting the shortlisted projects across the country.
St Patrick’s is a boys’ national school, based on the outskirts of Skibbereen, had an area of land, approximately one-third of an acre, behind the school, which was unused and which they wished to develop.
The school three classes for children with autism and principal Alan Foley takes up the story: ‘We originally planned to build a sensory garden. However, this idea has evolved in to an exciting multi-faceted organic garden, which we hope will benefit not just our students but the wider Skibbereen community and will be an inspiration to schools throughout the country.’
Following extensive planning, work began in recent months on the garden, which is located on a sloped site at the rear of the school and was designed by teacher Brian Granaghan.
The key elements of the garden which we have been put in place so far are:
A geodome – which is the centrepiece of the garden and enables them to grow fruit and vegetables all year round and is key to a school garden as most growing and harvesting opportunities are missed during the summer holidays.
- Ten raised beds – one for each class.
- Sensory garden – a sensory path leading from one end of the garden to the other, on either side of which are planted areas, growing various plants, shrubs and crops.
- Zen garden – a calm area in the centre of the garden where children can rake and play with the sand.
- Willow dome and tunnel – a living, growing classroom, which will grow over the next two years to give pupils an enjoyable and fun place to play and learn.
- Wild trail – a simple path through a natural habitat where they can observe wild flowers, insects and small creatures.
- An amphitheatre which will act as an outdoor classroom.
- Insect hotel – a great place to observe insects and mini-beasts up close.
- Woodland area – a mature and sheltered area within the garden.
‘The educational benefits are key as all our children will learn how to grow a variety of vegetables and crops,’ commented Mr Foley. ‘In this age of mindfulness, the peace and tranquility of the garden cannot be underestimated, especially for our children with autism.
‘Furthermore, we would like to show example to all schools of what can be done with a little imagination and ambition. The possibilities and benefits of this project are endless.’
Next week, we will be introducing readers to the other project being supported by The Southern Star for the Get Involved competition – the Clonakilty Community Garden project.