St. Mary’s N.S., Milltown

St Mary’s National School is based in Milltown, Dublin 6 and was awarded the Green Flag for Water in May 2015. The school presently has 14 teachers and 275 students in attendance. The school is also a regional winner of the Water School of the Year awards.

Step 1: Green-Schools Committee

Their Green-Schools committee consists of students from third to sixth class that were elected and some from the previous year that were chosen from a hat. Students with experience are kept on to assist new committee members. Other members of the committee include teachers, caretaker, secretary and parents from the parent committee. The meetings take place every second week and the students are assigned the task of reporting messages from meetings to their own class and one other class, e.g. sixth reports to second and staff are informed of latest news through notes and staff meetings.

Step 2: Environmental Review

The school carried out the essential actions required of the water theme as well as many recommended actions. For example, the school conducted a water use survey, carried out questionnaires, located local water bodies and investigated school policies for cleaning products. The school also investigated rainwater harvesting and as they are presently getting their building refurbished they were able to get this feature added to the building plans.

The school carried out two reviews for the old and temporary building. The main findings are:

  • The old building had very old plumbing and one urinal was wasting a lot of water
  • There was a good level of awareness among the students and parents
  • They had old cisterns with no water saving devices
  • They discovered a high water pressure in the taps which was wasting water

Step 3: Action Plan

Some of the actions carried out by St. Mary’s on the Water theme include:

  • Analysed water charges and formulated graphs on water consumption with fifth and sixth class pupils (every term)
  • Organised an environmental review of the school building (month of November 2013 and 2014):
  • Counted all taps, cisterns, urinals and appliances using water
  • Used water bills to figure out the average daily consumption of water per person in their school
  • Water usage was also counted manually (e.g. amount of water used when washing hands)
  • Created and displayed Green-Schools responsibility rota in each classroom
  • Appointed Water Watchers in each class to ensure the Turn It Off campaign was being implemented (carried out daily and rotated weekly)
  • Organised for all classes to complete a thematic unit on water with a main focus on its value, where it comes from, conservation and treatment (month of April)
  • Worked with sixth class to design a Water Saving Leaflet which was published on recycled paper and sent home to every family in the school with the water pledges
  • Collected water pledges which were published in book form and displayed at the Green-School’s notice board
  • Ideas from pledges were graphed and displayed on the Green-School’s notice board
  • Action day took place on Monday March 23rd
  • Walking for Water 6km Relay in the school yard
  • Created Happy the Hydro Helper to raise awareness and create a fun element
  • All classes completed active water filled lessons and projects
  • The school created a life-size Water Saving Board Game
  • Urinals flush was reduced but this did not prove very successful. The committee investigated the use of sensors for the urinal instead. The committee also decided to focus a lot of energy on awareness such as showing where most water is used and the quantities used, e.g. washing hands, flushing etc.
  • The school also installed a water butt, frequently cleaned off and put new displays and information on the Green-Schools notice board and put water saving tips on their website
  • All students were involved in creating and publishing the new Green Code

Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation

The school monitors and evaluates their Green-Schools programme through the following processes:

  • They appoint water watchers in each class
  • They undertake a termly water watch in the school, monitoring their water usage over a day using tick charts at all water sources
  • They check their water bills from Dublin City Council as they do not have access to their water meter as it is not within the boundaries of their temporary location. They also undertake week long manual assessments of water usage
  • They analyse water charges and formulate graphs on water consumption with fifth and sixth class pupils. They highlight and assess any increases recorded and compare with previous charges. All results are displayed on the Green-Schools notice board
  • They display a Green-Schools responsibilities rota in each class
  • They also maintain and monitor their previous themes through:
  • Wrapper monitors in each class to remind students to place wrappers in their lunchboxes to recycle at home
  • Only allow food on the yard at small break
  • Teams from 3rd class collect and separate litter after each break, record findings in the litter log and report findings using the traffic light system (daily)
  • Monday mornings they do a litter pick with fifth class
  • They encourage students to use reusable containers for their lunches and they use ‘resuer’ boxes on the yard at small break (these are boxes where the students can place their containers when they are finished eating so they do not have to carry them around as they play)
  • Keep scrap paper boxes in each class
  • Each class does spot checks on their black bins at the end of the school day to ensure they are keeping to their target of around 1litre of waste each day per class
  • Appoint bin monitors in each class to ensure pupils are placing their rubbish in the correct bins
  • Appoint a switch off squad rep in each class, each week, to watch out for any energy overuse in their classes (turning down heaters, turning off lights and other electrical items such as Interactive Whiteboards, Visualisers, computers, printers)

Through all the school’s hard work they were able to reduce the water used, per person daily, by 40% and this was with a 10% increase in pupils attending the school in the second year of the Water theme, which is an amazing result!

Step 5: Curriculum Links

Some examples of the schools curriculum links include:

Subject Class Group Environmental Topic
Gaeilge All Classes Aimsir
English Junior Infants Read water themed stories
Senior Infants Read water themed poems and stories
1st Class Wrote Water acrostic poems and stories
2nd Class
  • Read “The Hidden Forest”
  • Wrote water stories/poems
3rd Class Projects on water cycles and weather and poems
4th Class Read a selection of water themed poems and stories
5th Class Completed projects on climate change + poems
6th Class Completed projects on hydroelectricity
Maths All Classes Capacity
2nd Class Data – Counting all water using devices
4th Class Data – Tallying results from family water pledges
6th Class Number  – calculated total water usage
History Senior Classes Explorers and voyages, plumbing over the years
Geography Senior Classes Looked at water on earth – fresh/salty/ice +Water cycle
Science Junior Infants Used water to mix substances – jelly, slime etc
Senior Infants Designed boats to float on water
1st Class Investigated how to stop ice melting
2nd Class Made lava lamps to show how oil floats on water
3rd Class Showed soluble and insoluble substances
4th Class Used water to measure lung capacity
5th Class Made a model to simulate a tsunami
6th Class Water treatment – how to clean water using filters
Art All Classes Water Saving poster competition
6th Class Designed Water Saving leaflet and mascot
5th Class Designed life size water themed board game
SPHE All Classes Water Safety


Step 6: Informing and Involving

The school informed and involved the whole school and local community in many different ways. For example:

  • The held a Walking for Water action day in the school yard and the whole school was involved. They set up a 50 m track and organised every child from first class up to carry 6l of water for part of the Walk for Water Relay. That meant they had to walk up and down the yard 120 times! On the day all classes took part in active water lessons like their life sized water saving board game. They also collected money to purchase a Gift of Water from Trocaire.
  • They informed the school and local community of the work they were doing at their action day by decorating a bucket to make it look like a well to collect the money in, they designed a giant poster to promote the event and they made a costume of their water saving mascot, Happy the Hydro Helper, to raise awareness and to cheer everybody on as they walked for water.
  • In their temporary building they put up a new Green-Schools notice board to inform the whole school community of their work
  • They feedback to every class after a Green-Schools meeting
  • They make regular notes in circulars to parents and sent home water pledges and a water saving leaflets which were designed by sixth class
  • They dedicate the month of April to a specific theme related to Green-Schools each year to mark Earth hour and World Earth Day
  • Parents are involved through the Parents Association in the school who fully support all the work done by Green-Schools
  • They sent home water surveys
  • They also publicised the Dodder Clean up as part of An Taisce’s National Spring Clean

 Step 7: Green Code

Their Green Code has evolved over the years as they have added in their new themes. For the water theme they asked sixth class to come up with some lines about water which were then added to their code by their Green-Schools committee. Their code is displayed in all classes, in the office and on their Green-Schools notice board. They chant it together on the yard at line up time with their actions whenever their coordinator is on the yard.

At St. Mary’s we’re all keen

To endeavour to go green

Our school is clean

No litter to be seen

We’re reducing waste

And doing it with haste

Our switch off squad is cool

Turning down and off in school

We all use water together

So make it last forever

Reduce Reuse Repair Rethink Recycle

Reduce Reuse Repair Rethink Recycle

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