Our Lady of Victories Infant School is a Junior School in Dublin City. It has 245 students and 18 teaching staff. They were awarded their Green Flag for Biodiversity in May 2016.
Step 1: Committee
The Green-Schools Committee is made up of pupils from each first class, plus two staff members. They meet on the first Friday of every month for 15 – 20 minutes at lunchtime – all children from first class are invited to attend these meetings, on a rolling rota basis. They run the meetings in this manner to allow as many children as possible who are interested in Biodiversity to attend.
The Coordinator is then given a 20 minute slot at each monthly staff meeting to relay to staff what is happening in relation to Green-Schools actions and events. It also gives staff the chance to raise any questions or ideas they have in relation to the programme.
Step 2: Environmental Review
The Committee carried out all three ‘Essential Actions’, for the Environmental Review, to get a picture of where their starting point was, namely:
- The Biodiversity Awareness Survey
- The initial Habitat Map of the School and
- Revisited previous themes (i.e. Litter and Waste, Energy, Water and Travel) to identify links between them and the Biodiversity theme.
Figure 1: Biodiversity Awareness Survey Results from the Environmental Review
Image 1: A Student’s Habitat Map – a survey of habitats, carried out at the school (BEFORE any action is taken) – it is a key component of the Environmental Review
The Committee did further work for the Environmental Review, to get a very clear picture of their starting point (i.e. before any improvements or action was taken). From surveys of their school, the committee concluded the following.
There was a shortage of:
- Suitable habitat for insects for children to investigate and explore.
- Suitable habitat to attract birds to the grounds.
- Woodland habitat to attract other animals.
- Opportunities for children to grow fruits and vegetables
- Plant diversity overall
The committee also completed shorter Environmental Reviews for each of the previous Green-Schools themes. They vowed to work on all of these findings, and take action to improve the situation in each of these areas and themes.
Step 3: Action Plan
Following on from their findings on the Environmental Review for Biodiversity, the committee and wider school community started to take action. Along with the surveys mentioned above, some of their most successful actions included:
Increased habitats around the school for insects, bats and birds. To achieve this, they:
- Contacted local education group to help with building new bird feeders
- Contacted Bat Conservation Ireland regarding bat workshop
- Increased number of flowering plants and native woodland trees
- Developed a log-pile and stepping stone area
- Introduced a vegetable garden and leaf composter
- Erected flower boxes
- Planted bulbs under trees on and near the school campus.
- Introduced a wild area around the pond with nettles and Buddleja to encourage insect-life especially butterflies.
- Moved from using peat to using compost from our leaf composter
- Constructed Bug Hotels
Actions to inform and involve the whole school. To achieve this they:
- Displayed biodiversity survey and environmental review results on their Green-Schools notice board.
- Kept the Green-Schools notice board up to date throughout the year.
- Gave presentations, sang biodiversity songs, raised awareness at Assemblies
- Created a more biodiversity rich environment through displays and information signs relating to biodiversity
- Organised school workshops, with guest speakers and environmental education specialists.
- Organised field trips to Albert Park
Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation
- Repeated Awareness Surveys.
- Repeated the Habitat Map survey
- Monitored and evaluated progress in the new areas of biodiversity.
- Bird surveys were conducted from the classrooms by observing the bird feeders.
- Insect Audits – the students carried out bug hunts.
- Woodland animals – the students recorded the number of grey squirrels in the trees.
- Pond dipping – during field trips to the school pond students recorded observations in Year 1 and compared them to their observations in Year 2.
Figure 2: Students’ Biodiversity Awareness Survey Results – from BEFORE (during the Environmental Review) and AFTER actions were taken to improve awareness and biodiversity levels in the school.
Figure 2: Staff Members’ Biodiversity Awareness Results – from BEFORE (during the Environmental Review) and AFTER actions were taken to improve awareness and biodiversity levels in the school.
Image 2: A Student’s Habitat Map – a survey of habitats, carried out at the school (after action was taken) – it is an essential component of the Monitoring and Evaluation Step.
Step 5: Curriculum Work
|Subject||Environmental Issue Covered|
|Irish||Vocabulary relating to nature, seasons and the landscape|
|SPHE||Healthy living & Pollution|
Step 6: Informing and Involving
The school organised a range of events to encourage community involvement including:
- Holding a Day of Action; all parents were invited to take part.
- Participating in family Biodiversity activities and talks
- Taking part in our Annual Sunflower day – plant sun flowers using recycled / environmentally friendly materials
- Encouraging smaller insect hotels in home gardens
- Linking in with a team of scientists from Dublin City University, who visited the school and ran a workshop with the children on biodiversity.
- Keeping the school website up to date.
- Linking in with the gardening director in Farmleigh; a group of parents and grandparents, who were committed to the gardening and biodiversity, were brought on a private tour of Farmleigh and gardens!
- Collecting, and then gifting bags of leaf compost to local organic gardens
Step 7: Green Code
All staff members were asked at a staff meeting to try to develop biodiversity slogans with their class.The winning entry was agreed at a committee meeting – an entry submitted by Vanessa from first class:
“Keep our animals free, Biodiversity is the key”
The children enjoyed working with natural materials and learning outdoors – they brought a lot of their ideas and knowledge back to their homes also – including their sunflowers which they replanted and cared for at home, making bird feeders with their parents , creating their own insect hotels at home, and going to local parks to do nature hunts. Families were very proud … and it was a great opportunity to showcase the work we are doing in the school.