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7 Mar

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Monday 26th March dawned a bright sunny day and it was a beautiful day for more reasons than the weather. It was the day Minister Brian Cowen came to raise our first Green Flag. He was joined by Senator Pat Moylan, Councillor Peter Ormond, Offaly Environmental Officer Clare Dunne, David Hogan from Offaly County Council and School Chaplain Fr Michael Harding. Children from the school entertained the guests with a selection of traditional tunes and another group danced a few jigs for us. Michael Campion and Aisling Deegan explained the whole process and hard work that had gone in to getting our Green Flag.

In his speech Minister Cowen noted “It is a great pleasure to come here and hopefully the kids and parents will continue to keep this level of awareness and activity in this particular area. Today we have witnessed a great example of partnership between students and parents. It is great to see so many happy and interested in what was a very important aspect of their lives, not just so now, but also into the future”.

Mr Hanamy pointed out that following a suggestion by the Green Schools co-ordinator Siobhan Maher the school began its campaign for a Green Flag. “This Green Flag is the culmination of a number of years work from different green committees. Each committee was made up of pupils from 3rd to 6th Class, Parents’ Representatives which in the past included Dinny Quirke, Owain Drought and this year Veronica Crowley, Secretary Deirdre Bergin and Caretaker Tommy Carroll, Teachers Pauline Dooley and Soibhan Maher.

We conducted a survey of the waste we were sending to landfill that year. At the end of each day the 5th Class pupils emptied the contents of the bins onto newspaper and logged the results. From there we were able to ascertain which areas were producing the most waste. We adopted another form of 3 r’s in the school – reduce, reuse and recycle!! To reduce paper we photocopy on both sides, a reuseable paper box was placed in each classroom and we use a text a parent service to send messages home. A lunchbox policy was also introduced – we use reusable bottles and containers for popcorn etc. In an effort to reuse items we send printer cartridges to be refilled and reuse them, and return photocopier toner cartridges. We have a battery box in the school hall and can recycle batteries, and from time to time a charity collects old clothes from the school. Last Christmas the pupils had a novel way of giving Christmas cards – they did Kris Kindle and made the card in class”.

All the pupils know the Green Schools code

:

Our school is clean
Our pupils are keen
We’ll feel better
When we go green!!

It was with great pride that Peter Quealy, Sinead Delaney, Callum Moore and Teacher Siobhan Maher accepted the award on behalf of the school in Dublin on Tuesday 13th February.

The Green school search began in a small way in 2003 but it has grown from strength to strength.

We began by forming a committee made up of two pupils from 3rd to 6th class, a parent representative, the school secretary, a teacher and the caretaker. Our first task was a litter survey which was conducted by the pupils from 5th class. This involved them going to each class at the end of the day checking the bins and keeping a record of the contents. This information was then recorded on a graph and the results brought back to the committee. At this time the school had adopted a healthy eating policy so the next step was to suggest a lunch box policy. The parents were fully in support so we quickly began to see results. The hard working committee suggested that waste could be further reduced by encouraging pupils to re-use drinks bottles and lunch boxes. So it was goodbye to cartons and popcorn bags. Each class became equipped with three bins and the children very quickly became litter detectives.

In keeping with our green theme the green bin collects paper and car for recycling, our compost bin collects pencil parings and fruit waste and the third bin collects plastic waste and other un-recyclable materials.

Having been blessed with a very supportive caretaker when approached he was very open to the idea of planting and landscaping the outside grounds his only requirement was a load of topsoil! The parents were again were happy to oblige and we were on our way. Classes planted flowers indoors which were later transferred outside by Tommy and each year a new section is to be further developed.

For the past three years the school has taken part in the National Spring Clean with all children involved. The next step on our quest for a green flag was to devise a green code. A competition was run within the school the prize was sponsored by Owain Drought and the winning slogan was ‘Our school is clean, the pupils are keen, we’ll all feel better when we go green.’

To encourage further recycling from the wider community we have also held two days of clothes collections for different charities.


More Information on the Green Schools Initiative

Green-Schools is the Irish branch of an international environmental education programme known as Eco-Schools, which is designed to raise students’ awareness of environmental and sustainable development issues through classroom study. Eco-Schools is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education, an organisation founded in 1981 to raise awareness of environmental issues and effect change through education.

Green-Schools is run by An Taisce, an independent, environmental, non-governmental organisation, in conjunction with local authorities in Ireland. The scheme offers a well-defined, controllable way to take environmental issues from the curriculum and apply them to the day-to-day running of the school. This process helps students to recognise the importance of environmental issues and take them more seriously in their personal and home lives.

Benefits of the Green Schools initiative
The Green-Schools initiative can help schools to:

Improve the school environment
Reduce litter and waste
Reduce fuel bills
Increase environmental awareness
Involve the local community
Gain local publicity
Create links with other schools in Ireland and abroad
The Eco-Schools Green Flag, which is awarded to schools that have shown high achievement in their individual Programmes, is a recognised and respected eco-label for environmental education and performance. In Ireland, the Green-Schools award is given to schools that successfully complete the Seven Steps of the programme.

Seven Steps of the Green-Schools initiative
The seven steps of the Green-Schools programme are:

Green-Schools committee: This step directs the school’s involvement in the project. Ideally, the committee will include pupils, teachers, non-teaching staff, management and parents.
Environmental Review: This process involves the examination of the school’s environmental impacts in order to identify targets for action and improvement.
Action Plan: This step involves setting specific and achievable targets with proposed completion dates that will show real success.
Monitoring and Evaluation: This step ensures that progress towards targets is checked, amendments made when necessary and success celebrated.
Curriculum Work: This involves providing curriculum materials that give ideas on how to integrate environmental issues into lessons.
Informing and Involving: This involves developing a publicity programme that keeps the school and wider community involved and informed through displays, assemblies and press coverage. A Day of Action involves the whole school and wider community in meeting the school’s targets.
Green Code: This is a statement of the school’s commitment to environmental good practice.
After a period of participation, the success of these initiatives and the school’s methodology is evaluated and the whole Green-Schools programme for each school is assessed. Successful schools are then awarded the Eco-Schools Green Flag.

A Green-Schools award is in the form of a Green Flag that can be flown outside the school or displayed in a foyer. Award winners also receive a certificate, a logo to display on headed notepaper and other publicity material.

An Taisce provides support materials to every school that registers for the Green-Schools programme.

Rules
A Green Schools award must be renewed every two years.

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