Coláiste Na Toirbhirte was awarded the Green Flag award for the Water theme in May 2013. It is a large secondary school, with 40 teachers and 530 students, based in Bandon, Co Cork. The following details their work under the Seven Steps; particular attention is paid to whole school approach, community links, water conservation activities and looking at water from a global perspective.
Step 1: Green-Schools Committee
The Green-Schools Committee had representatives from every year and they met once a week to discuss the progress of the programme, share ideas, and allocate tasks. They shared ideas on their upcoming water action day such as organising a quiz, treasure hunt, face painting, fact file wall, water activities, science experiments, cake sale, surveys. They also discussed areas that would needed research, with a few students volunteering to research charities such as Direct Action, Irish Water Safety and Action Aid.
Step 2 Environmental Review:
Their environmental review was extremely comprehensive. They carried out all the essential actions; read the school water meter and conducted a manual water audit and leak tests. They also undertook most of the recommended actions such as: conducting a water use survey, investigating the water lifecycle of the school, conducting surveys/questionnaires, locating their local water bodies, investigating rainwater harvesting in the school and located nearby Blue Flag beaches/marinas.
The water use surveys were carried out on 500 people to assess how much water they use at home and at school. The initial survey, carried out in 2011, showed that an average student flushed the toilet four to five times a day. The results from their water use survey, coupled with questionnaires, made it clear there was room for awareness arising. They decided to go on a massive awareness campaign with their main slogan ‘Don’t waste it, taste it’. They did this by making lots of posters, announcements, leaflets, and by using social networking sites. When the water use survey was repeated in 2012 they found there had been a reduction in water use with people flushing the toilet two to three times a day.
Step 3: Action Plan
They aimed to develop increased awareness and understanding of the importance of water in their everyday lives and the lives of those around the world. Furthermore, they aimed to decrease their water usage at school and at home.
- Open night on water awareness
- Changed the pipes and taps to achieve water reduction
- Awareness surveys carried out in 2011 and 2012
- Created water posters to highlight the slogan ”Don’t waste it Taste it” and to increase awareness about water conservation
- Developed Green Code
- Created a 3D tap to emphasise their water fact wall and highlighted the theme of water for all visitors
- Water song developed to reach out to the wider community which was sent and played on local and national radio stations
- Leak checks were carried out monthly to ensure there was no water wastage
- Meter reading were taken weekly to keep track of their usage and to identify any major leaks
- They held a ‘Blue Day’ to raise money for water aid charity
- Participated in a Green-Schools Walk for Water event which was a 3km walk with 3litres on their back to raise awareness about water scarcity around the world
- Participated in the Tidy Areas competition
- Held a cake sale as a fundraising event
- They also have future plans to install a rain water harvester to further cut back on their water usage
Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation
They set up a leak squad on a rota basis so that as many as possible are involved in the monitoring. The students read the meter every week and conducted leak tests once a month where they used food colouring to see if there were leaks in the toilets. They read bills to evaluate their progress. Also, regular surveys were carried out to make sure the whole school was involved and weekly charts were created based on their monitoring efforts in order to inform the whole school community of their progress.
The school made a reduction in water usage of approximately 20% and a huge amount of effort went into their water usage awareness campaign.
Step 5: Curriculum Work
The school’s curriculum links on the water theme were extensive and involved first to sixth year. For example:
- Art – water slogan and posters
- Home Economics – nutritional value of water
- Science – water treatments
- Physics – studying hydrological power
- Chemistry – properties of water
- English – song writing
- Music – song recording and editing
- French – case study on water pollution
- Irish – water theme folk stories
- I.T. – investigated water cycle in Bandon, typed leaflets which were sent out to the wider community and emailed the song to radio stations
- P.E. – treasure hunt for water facts
- History – past and present of water
- Maths – calculating water meter to put onto graphs
Step 6: Informing and Involving
The school informed the school community using various mediums. For example:
- regular announcements on the intercom with updates and news from Green-Schools
- gave prizes for the tidy areas competition
- created lots of colourful posters and put them up all over the school to highlight the slogan
- designed a leaflet for each student to bring to home which highlighted ‘how to save water in the home’
- wrote and recorded a song for water conservation and this was emailed to local and national radio stations
- set up a face book page to keep students informed over holidays and weekends
- featured in the school newsletter and school website
- photographs of the schools work were placed on the school television system
- sculpture and artwork were displayed to inform visitors of the schools work on the Green-Schools programme and informative leaflets were available to take away
The made many connections in the wider community as part of the Green-Schools programme. For example:
- Local politician Jim Daly was contacted about promoting rainwater harvesting in the school
- Local and national radio stations were sent the school’s water song
- Acorn water treatment specialists were contacted to provide the school with information
- Parents helped to bake cakes and buns for the Water Action day and on the schools open night parents were invited to join the Green-Schools committee
- Sandy McGroarty from An Taisce went to the school to discuss water conservation and methods to decrease water usage
Their action day held on February 24, 2013 involved the whole school and wider community and was very successful and very enjoyable. They kicked off their Water Action day with their Water song being played for the first time over the intercom, which got everyone very interested as the song was written and recorded by two girls in fourth year with the help of their music teacher.
Everyone on the committee baked blue buns and cakes which were sold during lunch time and they set up various stalls in the corridor of the school during this period. The stalls carried out a range of activities such as:
- Face painting
- Science experiments related to water, testing the hardness of various samples of water
- Guess the amount of water in various container sizes, the closest winner got a prize
- Water games such as pin the ‘Drip on the Drop’
- Fact file stand where we spoke to other students about our work on Green-Schools and to high light cross curricular links
- Survey stall
- Treasure hunt for water facts
- Quiz stall
All students were given a booklet to be taken home that detailed how water can be saved at home which they found particularly important as water meter charges are soon to be introduced. The money raised from the event was used to give a donation to water aid, buy prizes for tidy areas competition as well as pay for students to attend the Walk for Water event organised by An Taisce Green-Schools in Cork.
Step 7: Green Code
They held a Green Code slogan and song competition to decide the school’s water theme code. The winning code and song were displayed around the school, on the school’s newsletter and website and repeated over the intercom. The winners are as follows:
Slogan: ”Don’t waste it, taste it”
123 Save Water
456 Save Water
123456 Save water in our School
Remember, One, turn off all the taps,
Two, make sure there are no leaks,
Three, tell all your friends and family,
before you wash yourself! Remember
Four, recycle your old bottles,
Five, Conserving every drop you
Six, Save water
Save water everywhere,
while brushing your teeth and washing your hair,
Save water when your at home,
you will not be saving alone.
Save water in our school
because saving water is so cool.
That’s the Green Schools code.