St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) National School is a girls’ senior primary school in Dublin. There are 316 students from 2nd to 6th class and 20 teachers. They were one of the eight schools who participated in the pilot Global Citizenship Food and Biodiversity Flag. The whole school got involved in a variety of ways to earn their Green Flag.
Green Schools Committee
There were 26 students on the committee with two students from each class in the school. An SNA and a class teacher represented the staff. The committee also received help from parents and the school caretaker. The students on the committee played key roles in the decision-making processes throughout the two-year cycle.
Before they could begin work on the theme, they needed to evaluate the current situation in the school.
SVP undertook both the essential and optional aspects of the environmental review.
The essential actions are for the environmental review are to:
- Create a ‘Food Habitat Map’ to assist in evaluating growing spaces
- Carry out a ‘Food and Biodiversity Awareness Survey’ to assess existing knowledge of students
The school grounds already had some raised beds and a garden area. They divided up the beds, large pots etc and assigned a section to each class in the school. They also searched for suitable places indoors to begin planting seedlings. Certain classrooms and corridors had more suitable window spaces with regards to sunlight, so these were chosen and divided between classes.
One of the fourth classes undertook responsibility for creating a Food Habitat Map. Following a Green–Schools workshop they mapped out the areas of the school which were associated with growing, storing and eating food.
The school had existing drawings of the school ground and building from a Dublin City Council planning document which the students used to create the outline of their map.
In addition to assessing the school’s readiness to plant, the Environmental Review step also includes investigating the existing attitudes and knowledge of students and staff in the school. Before any work was begun on the project a survey was carried out using a Green–Schools survey template.
They also undertook an optional action and investigated the soil type and health. A Second Class in the school followed along with a Green–Schools workshop to learn more about the soil, what lives in it and how suitable it was for growing vegetables.
The committee set out a range of actions and added to it as the project when on. This included the two essential actions for the Action Plan which were to: plant, harvest and eat a selection of food crops and; to choose a Global Topic to investigate as a school. They divided up their actions into two different year as follows:
- Create food habitat map
- Carry out awareness surveys
- Assign each class an outdoor growing space, crop and assess gardening equipment
- Create timetable for watering, weeding etc. Link with special units
- Harvest vegetables as they are ready
- Book in a cooking workshop via Green Schools using harvested veg
- Use additional vegetables for tasting and preparing simple raw dishes with students or send home with students for at home cooking
- Harvest any vegetables like carrots and potatoes which continued to grow over the summer
- Carry out soil investigation workshop with Green–Schools
- Create mind maps to determine which Global Topic to pick for the school to focus on
- Present chosen topics of “Who is your Farmer” and “Our Diets and Our Rainforest” in school assembly
- Provide information and resources for each class to carry out projects on different aspect of Global Topic
- Due to the school shutdown the following planned actions were adjusted
- Seeds and materials to be distributed to classes as in year 1
- Day of Action: Garden party with parents invited. Picnic outside with dishes made with harvested crops. Tours of gardens for parents. Project work for Global Topics displayed.
Monitoring and evaluation
A second Awareness Survey was carried out at the end of the second year to assess how students had been impacted by the theme.
The school monitored which crops grew most successfully in year 1 and used that information to determine: how early crops needed to be planted the following year and which year age group should plant which crops etc.
The school found that the project had many links to the existing curriculum.
- 4th class Geography: Mapwork of school grounds
- All classes Science: How plants grow
- 2nd class Maths: Weighing ingredients for cooking, using ratios
- 6th class History: Differences in food available and eaten in Irish history
Informing and Involving
As there was a representative from each class on the Green–Schools Committee every class was informed by their representatives of news from meetings. Staff and students were encouraged to take part in decision making with opportunities to vote or sign up to key issues. Information was placed on school notice boards and in the staff room to allow everyone to be part of processes like picking which Global Topic the school would study and which crops each class would grow.
School assemblies were used to give information to the entire school with members of the committee presenting information to their fellow students.
The school also took part in a promotional photoshoot for the project with Image magazine.