Sacred Heart Secondary School, Westport

Sacred Heart School is a Secondary School in Westport, Co. Mayo. It has 590 students and 55 teaching staff. They were awarded their Green Flag for Biodiversity in May 2016.

Step 1: Committee

An open invitation to all students to attend committee meetings was issued each September over the intercom; those who turned up agreed to form the main committee. Other students gradually came on board to form sub-committees.

Most of the roles of greatest responsibility were taken by fifth Year students (most of whom have been involved on the committee for many years). These included the roles of: Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary and Vice Secretary. The roles of Public Relations Officers were divided among six students from first and second Year. Different sub-committees were also established for different tasks. These consisted of strong representation from all non-exam years.

Two teachers coordinated the programme overall, and four other teachers assisted where needed.

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:

  1. The Biodiversity Awareness Survey
  2. The initial Habitat Map of the School and
  3. Revisited previous themes (i.e. Litter and Waste, Energy, Water and Travel) to identify links between them and the Biodiversity theme.

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 that there was a shortage of the following:

  • Tree Identification skills amongst students (through a Leaf Identification Survey)
  • Ideal habitat for butterflies, birds and insects.
  • An awareness of this wealth of nature on their doorstep
  • Native tree species

Step 3: Action Plan

The committee carried out three of the recommended actions, they:

  • Investigated the importance of biodiversity
  • Investigated major threats to biodiversity locally/nationally/internationally
  • Investigated practical ways in which they can help conserve it

They achieved these by carrying out a range of actions that they deemed to be most relevant and suitable to their own school and its locality. These actions included:

  • Identifying trees on the school grounds
  • Tree labelling
  • Identification of visiting birds to school grounds
  • Planting native trees and shrubs
  • Informing the school about biodiversity
  • Installing bird feeders and bird boxes
  • Planting a herb garden
  • Beginning a designated wildflower patch to attract more insects
  • Establishing window boxes for flowers
  • Setting up a poly-tunnel (still underway)
  • Building an Insect Hotel
  • Creating a Leaf pile
  • Giving PowerPoint presentation to 1st, 2nd years and tys on biodiversity
  • Creating a ‘Brick wall’ of biodiversity terms
  • Inviting guest speakers in to talk about various topics including bird and tree identification.

Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation

Sacred Heart School conducted the obligatory steps of carrying out repeat surveys of the habitat in the school, and awareness levels amongst the school population.



Figure 1: Students’ Biodiversity Awareness Results – these figures show the level of knowledge before and after the school took action to improve biodiversity awareness levels.

Sacred Heart School continued to work hard on maintaining all previous Green-Schools themes. Through efficient structures and delegation of tasks, the committee very successfully kept their environmental standards high across the board. Here are some of the ways they achieved this:

Litter and Waste

  • The 1st Year students are in charge of recycling; designated students collect the recyclable and compostable waste and make it ready for weekly collection.
  • Regular bin spot-checks carried out
  • The ‘Greenest Classroom’ competition is run annually with prizes sponsored by Westport Town council.


  • “Conserve Energy” posters are up around the school.
  • Several exit doors have been fitted with automatic closers.
  • The ‘Greenest Classroom’ competition puts the responsibility back on the students to conserve energy in their own area.


  • All of our taps except in the first year area are now push-taps, so there is very little wastage.
  • Our cisterns still use less water due to the bottles we put in them, to limit the quantity of water for each flush.
  • Posters in the First Year bathrooms have posters to remind the students about turning off the taps.


  • There is a ‘Smarter travel committee’ made up of 5th year students, which actively promotes sustainable travel among the school population. They organised the ‘SHS Smartest Mover’ competition in September and October of this school year, with prizes sponsored by Westport Town Council.
  • Other initiatives promoting sustainable travel are ‘Westport Walks Wednesdays’ and ‘Spring into Action’ and ‘Big Travel Competition’ and ‘Operation Transportation’.

Step 5: Curriculum Work

Subject Environmental Issue Covered
English Respect for the environment and the symbiotic relationship between humanity and the material world.
Irish Climate change; Pollution
Spanish How to help the environment and the challenges facing planet earth
CSPE Stewardship – taking care of the earth; a project on Bees; Climate change; Guest speaker on Climate change from Trocaire.
Geography Wave energy workshop Sustainable travel; Climate change and its effects on biodiversity; Secondary economic activities; problems with acid rain/ climate change; Greenhouse effect; global warming/ pollution from economic activities/ deforestation; guest speaker on biodiversity and climate change
Science Sci-fest’ project incorporating biodiversity (incomplete); Living things/identifying different plants and animals
Chemistry Global warming/greenhouse gases/ effects on the ecosystem/eutrophociation
Biology Displays for biodiversity for science noticeboard.
Home Economics Effects of pollution on environment; Energy saving devices and energy conservation in general; the 3 R’s.
Art Posters and large banner for biodiversity; Images of insects for the above banner; Signs to identify trees;  Dresses for Junkkouture from  school generated waste e.g. plastics and paper


Step 6: Informing and Involving

  • Several ‘Mini-days of Action’.
  • Main Day of Action organised a big clean up of the school grounds and undertook planting of trees and flowers with all students involved in all of the Green School sub committees.
  • Marked National Tree Week by planting 3 native apple trees (grafted from old local trees) to
  • Making plans to develop an ‘edible garden’ in the school.
  • Use the corridor spaces and the Green School Noticeboard to display posters and information about competitions.
  • The intercom for announcements.
  • We also have a Facebook page.
  • Local Press
  • Local groups, e.g. TidyTowns and local college

Step 7: Green Code

The Sacred Heart Green Code for Biodiversity  (Kitty, Iselia and Sheena, 1A, 2016)

Biodiversity is all around

In the sky and on the ground

from plants to birds

vegetable and herbs…

Don’t let it get away

Save it today!

One for all and

all for one

biodiversity is loads of fun.

Biodiversity is the way to go

Do your part to show you know

Help the world – you know it’s right

Don’t let global warming come and bite!


“It has been great to begin to discover and appreciate all the wonderful aspects of nature evident on our own doorstep. This project has opened our eyes to all that is happening under our noses and has made us keen to protect and enhance the biodiversity on our grounds, based on a new understanding of the importance of biodiversity for our survival”

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