THE Copper Coast Geopark is a centre for formal and informal education, providing informative and enjoyable experiences which enhance the appreciation of the landscape and our culture. One of the fi rst activities of the Copper Coast, when the area achieved Global Geopark status, was to co-coordinate an eight week geology course with Dr. Bettie Higgs, from UCC and geologist Tina Keating.
The course was run for the local communities, to teach about the area’s unique geology and to explain why this small stretch of coastline achieved worldwide recognition. Understandin
g the signifi – cance and learning about the area from the ground up so to speak gives people a deeper appreciation of the area, why the landscape has formed in this way, the mineralisation which led to the copper and silver mines, even to the type of fl ora and fauna that inhabit the area.
Learning about your environment and what it has to offer, fosters a sense of pride in your place, it is seen as something worthwhile, valuable and worth preserving. As a result the Copper Coast Geopark has now a group of trained local volunteer guides leading geological, historical and ecological walks. Our education programme provides local geological expertise, education for primary, secondary, third level students and the general public, in addition to leading fi eldtrips to the numerous geosites in the area.
Our compact Geopark is steeped in geological, industrial and social history enabling us to facilitate a wide range of fi eld trips and activities for third level education under the following areas – geology, landscape, ecology, heritage and architecture.
NATIONAL SCHOOLS EDUCATION PROGRAMME
At Primary level we focus on a fun, interactive, discovery learning style. Firsthand experience with natural phenomena plays a huge part when it comes to environment and preservation and when we encourage an interest in the environment and a sense of pride of place from an early age – “sense of place” and environmental preservation becomes second nature. As part of our National School Education Programme we take school children on fi eldtrips to the beaches and bog.
To help them understand the geology, ecology, habitats and environment, using various games and scavenger hunts to separate what is natural to the beach and what shouldn’t be there. Fun activities create a positive feeling towards the place and the children are learning without it being a drudge and who knows we might be inspiring our future Earth Scientists. For those unable to visit the Geopark, we bring the wonders of our planet Earth to schools along the South East, with fun presentations, rock, mineral and fossils samples, and hands-on workshops creating plate tectonic jigsaws, volcanoes, earth history charts and cave paintings.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS EDUCATION PROGRAMME
Activities at Secondary school level utilise the Geopark as an outdoor laboratory, working with the curriculum and expanding on it, but are also fun! Our coastline is the perfect location for examining coastal processes for Geographical Investigation as part of the Leaving Certifi cate. Tina Keating, Copper Coast Geologist and Heritage Specialist, has spearheaded our Education Programme for the past seven years. As an educator Tina advocates the virtues of studying in a holistic, contextual way, bringing together typically disconnected subjects so that students can arrive at more meaningful and authentic understanding.
The emphasis is on integrating subjects, connecting skills and knowledge from multiple sources and experiences; applying skills and practices in various settings to create a truly authentic experiences because, in the world outside of the classroom, content is not stand-alone. Two such projects were undertaken with students from Stella Maris Secondary School, Tramore, Co Waterford in association with The Copper Coast Geopark. The first “Geology through Art” project, sought to fully integrate two subject areas,
Art and Science, which are typically perceived in education as being intrinsically different and separate. The aim of this project was to take a science subject and build an art exhibition around it thus creating a link between the two subjects, which would appear to differ so widely from each other but in fact share some commonalities. Both are extremely visual and imaginative subjects and the combination endeavoured to create and encourage a more explorative, imaginative and enthusiastic response to science education. The students produced works of art and craft inspired by the geology and landscape of the Copper Coast.
All works produced as part of this project were exhibited at the Geopark Centre during European Geopark Network Week. The centre was adorned with paintings, sketches, lino prints, photographs, batiks and ceramics. The fabulous coastline and rich heritage truly captured the imagination of the students and stretched it even further to include an adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s famous fantasy novel, however in our version Alice, instead of falling down a rabbit hole, fell down a mine shaft in Tankardstown. The handmade twelve foot papier – mache` model of Alice and various characters including White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee were a talking point for months afterwards.
For our second project “Archaeology Above & Below” the Copper Coast took to the skies for a bird’s eye view of our Geopark, not only for a new perspective of the present but also in the hope of catching a glimpse of our past. This award winning project combined various disciplines including science, art, geography, geology, history and maths, working with the 5th.year students from Stella Maris Secondary school the aim was to investigate a local cultural heritage site using a combination of KAP, (kite aerial photography), ground photography, sketches and measurements.
All of these activities including a historical lecture on site were part of the school’s visit of the medieval Dunhill Castle. The scientifi c aspect of archaeology helped students understand the reasoning and technology behind remote sensing and more importantly the experience of conducting a geophysical/archaeological survey. Applying skills and knowledge from multiple sources helped solve problems and aid research. Developing skills in seeing, viewing and visualizing greatly aided the reconstruction of the story from traces and residues, absences and presences.
The resulting A1 poster was exhibited during the “Archaeology Above & Below” seminar in Balla, Co. Mayo, last April. The Seminar and Conference was attended by archaeologists and geophysicists from around Europe and was opened by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. The emphasis was “Women in Science” and included inspiring talks from women working in the various sciences. The students were awarded a KAP kit by Dr. John Wells, chairman of the West Lothian Archaeological Trust, Scotland who commended them on an outstanding piece of work.
RTE VISITS THE COPPER COAST GEOPARK
There was real excitement in Annestown in July this year where we again explored the dualities of art and nature, this time with a great group of children from the Copper Coast and RTE came to fi lm us! The crew spent the day fi lming for the popular RTE jr. Kidspeak series that runs throughout the year and presents short ‘snapshots’ of young people engaged in a huge variety of activities.
The children spent the morning with our geologist Tina, learning all about the unique geology of the Copper Coast and the wonderful creatures living in the rock pools. We then had great fun creating one of our signature mosaics – a fabulous giant starfi sh using all the natural materials of the beach, the different coloured rock types, shells and seaweed. There was also great fun learning to kayak along the Anne River with Philip McCormack from Pure Adventure.
Our education programmes explore and discover the wonders of our Geopark not only from the ground and air but now also from the sea. The Copper Coast teamed with Pure Adventure to create an exciting Kayaking Fieldtrip with a wonderful opportunity to view our fabulous coastline, its geology and wildlife from the seaward side and to explore our sea arches, caves and the rare columnar jointed rocks – our very own mini Giant’s Causeway. Presenting our environment from such different perspectives combined with enjoyable activities for all age groups, the Copper Coast Geopark as a centre for education can truly provide a multi levelled journey of discovery.