Teachers' Resources

Teach your pupils how to build a giant nest, create a butterfly garden or make their own family tree!

The resources provided here have been submitted by Heritage Experts, teachers or prepared by other educational organisations. The resources are both fun and educational and are designed to inspire and develop an appreciation and curiosity about Ireland’s wonderful natural and cultural heritage.

Resources can be searched for under the following categories:

Living things (Science)

Little Monsters

Living things (Science) / Science

Bugs! In all shapes and sizes, big ones, small ones, long one, tall ones, slow ones, quick ones, with over 1 million known species, it’s time we got to know our neighbours a little better.

Use this task to develop the children’s awareness of these little critters and the great job they do in keeping our ecosystem going: pollinating flowers and crops, aerating and nourishing the soil, providing food for other wildlife and generally maintaining the balance of nature. It also introduces the children to bugs and insects in a non-threatening manner.

Things To do
1.    Find little monsters! Download the Little Monsters worksheet below and bring the children out to the school grounds or local park and ask them to find (but not touch!) the insects and bugs on the sheet.

Leaves and Trees

Natural environments (Geography), Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Trees are more than just a place for birds to rest! They give air, food, shelter, warmth. It may look like trees just stand around and do nothing. Actually, they are very busy doing a variety of jobs that are essential to animals and the environment.

Things To do
1.    A nature ramble to the local park to collect different types of leaves and see if the children can match them to the Leaf Hunt worksheet below or if this not possible bring in some leaves and see if the children can match them.
2.    Repeat this exercise in all four seasons and explain the differences in the colours and shapes
3.    Take part in National Tree Week and plant a tree in the school grounds.

Kilkenny Water

Natural environments (Geography), Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science, History, Geography

The city of Kilkenny is built on the River Nore. The name 'Nore' in Irish is An Fheoir, which probably means the boundary. The river rises far to the north in the Slieve Bloom Mountains between counties Laois and Offaly. The monastery, cathedral and small town which existed before the Norman invasion was built on the west bank of the river. Today the Nore is crossed by three bridges – Green’s Bridge, John’s Bridge and Ossory Bridge.

Download the resources below to explore the history, science and geography relating to Kilkenny’s water.

Eureka! The Big Bang Query

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science), Energy and forces (Science), Materials (Science) / Science

Comedy and science collide as host, Neil Delamere puts team captains, PJ Gallagher and Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and their teams of comedians and science personalities through their paces, in this original science-comedy quiz.

Each show sees host Neil Delamere risk life and limb to celebrate the greatest ‘Eureka Moments’ of our time – he channels 4 million volts of electricity and shoots lightning out of his fingertips (and a couple of other places while he’s at it), he creates an earthquake in Westmeath, undergoes astronaut training in a human centrifuge and goes freediving in a freezing quarry – all in the name of science.

Eureka! The Big Bang Query was made with the support of Science Foundation Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Grow Some Celtic Cress

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Get the children to recognise what they are eating and were it comes from. Explaining the difference between root and leaf vegetables and the importance of eating their five a day.

Things To do
1.    Grow Celtic Cress (this will take about 4-5 days).

What you will need:
1.    Cress seeds, paper towels and a flat plate.

What to do:
1.    Download the Celtic Cress worksheet below and cut out the first initial of the student’s name.
2.    Wet some towels until they are soaking.
3.    Lay the letter shape onto the towels.
4.    Sprinkle lots of cress seeds in the letter shape. Make sure you cover the whole of the letter shape. Press the seeds down gently.
5.    Lift the letter shape, leaving the seed shapes. Place the plate in a warm sunny spot.
6.    Use a spoon to water around the letter shapes every day. Don’t put water on the seeds.
7.    Watch them grow (around 4-5 days). When the cress is as long as your finger, cut it off and eat it!

Grow A Flower

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Not just a pretty face. Flowers can change the world, learn how plants reproduce, and many insects would die without this vital source of nutrients. A flower is the part of the plant that makes the seeds. The main parts of a flower are the carpals and stamens. These parts are often found in the centre of the flower. There are egg cells in the carpel and pollen cells in the stamen. All flowers have four basic parts: sepals, petals, carpals and stamen. Different flowers have different numbers and shapes of these parts.

Things To do
1.    Download the Flower Parts worksheet below and name the parts of a flower.
2.    Grow a plant from seed (this will take about 2 - 3 weeks).

What you will need:
1.    A clean glass jar, paper napkins

What to do:
1.    Rinse the jar in cold water. Empty it out - but do not dry it.
2.    Fold a paper napkin in half, curl it into a circle and slip it inside the jar.
3.    Press the napkin against the side of the jar (let it soak up the remaining water residue).
4.    Peel back part of the napkin and push three seeds (broad bean seeds are good for this) evenly spaced around the inside of the glass jar.
5.    Wet the napkins with lots of water.
6.    Put the jar in a bright warm place (the windowsill is perfect!).
7.    Add water often to keep the napkins wet.
8.    The roots will start to grown first and then the shoots.

Coilte Trees

Natural environments (Geography), Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science, Geography

Coillte, Ireland’s leading forestry company, welcomes you to the huge range of recreation opportunities they provide at many of their sites across the country. You can access miles of walking, hiking, multi access, and long distance trails, enjoy the thrill of cycling new world class bike trails, fish, picnic, watch wildlife, launch your canoe on the rivers, visit megalithic sites or just sit and enjoy the outdoors. The choice is yours.

Things to do
1.    Visit a local forest - you can find a list of forests and trails in your area here.
2.    Here you can download information and worksheets about trees. These worksheets are suitable for primary school children and are a fun way for children to learn about trees and the environment. Learn more about trees here.

Attract Garden Birds to the School Grounds

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Geoff Hunt, one of our very own Heritage Experts, has some great tips for attracting garden birds to your school grounds. This project has been very successful in other schools and encourages pupils to become familiar with a wide variety of garden birds!

Loughnaneane Park - Primary Schools Education Pack

Natural environments (Geography), Story (History), Local studies (History), Life, society, work and culture in the past (History), Continuity and change over time (History), Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Loughnaneane Park is a free amenity provided by Roscommon County Council which is available to all. This pack aims to promote Loughnaneane Park as an education resource site, to be used by primary schools for field studies relating to natural, built and cultural heritage.

White Clover (All About)

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Latin name: Trifolium repens

Irish name: Seamair bán

You’ll find worksheets, illustrations and outdoor activity ideas all about White Clover below!

This plant grows commonly in lawns and fields. Early in the year only its leaves are obvious. These are described as trefoil leaves - three leaflets from one stem. These trefoil leaves are easy to find and to recognise. Each leaflet is heart shaped with a pale V-shaped mark. The Irish word for clover is seamair. In spring when there are no flowers out yet, the leaves are young clover - seamair óg or shamrock.

There is a tradition that St Patrick used the leaf of the shamrock to illustrate his teachings about the Holy Trinity to the Irish people long ago. Just as there were three leaflets united in one leaf of the shamrock - so were the three deities of the holy trinity united as one God. To commemorate this, Irish people wear a bunch of shamrock in their lapels on March 17th - St Patrick’s Day.

The plant begins to flower in April and there are white clover flowers all summer long until the end of September. The white clover flower head is actually a cluster of small individual flower heads. The flowers can be visited by honey bees who gather the nectar to make particularly delicious clover honey. As the clover is a member of the pea family, its seeds are carried in pods.

Clover was planted by farmers in their pastures to improve the fertility of the soil. Plants need nitrogen in order to grow and usually, to get a good crop, the farmer must add nitrogen as a fertiliser to the soil. All members of the pea family - including the clovers - are able to take in the nitrogen from the air and use it to grow. They are able to fix nitrogen in this way because they have special nodules on their roots. These nodules are formed because the plant can form an association with a particular type of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and together the plant and bacteria work in a symbiotic relationship to fix nitrogen from the air. Thus, in the days before farmers had large quantities of cattle slurry to restore the nitrogen levels in their soil, they were very glad to plant clover and let it improve the nutrient quality of their soil.

Things to do with Senior Infants
1.    Around St Patrick’s Day, the class can be brought out to collect shamrock from the school lawn or field. They can be told about the tradition of St Patrick and the shamrock.
2.    In May or June the class can go out to look for clover in flower. White clover has obvious white flower heads. Pupils may also find red clover which has purple flowers which are larger than those of the white clover. They may also find small yellow clover flowers. These belong to a different species - yellow clover - which grows in the drier parts of grassland areas.

Woodlice (All About)

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

Woodlice are very common creatures found in gardens and school grounds. All you have to do is turn over a stone or a flower pot or look under dead leaves and a colony of woodlice will be uncovered. They are not insects — they are members of the group Crustaceae and are related to crabs and lobsters. Insects all have six legs but the woodlouse’s body is made up of seven segments with a pair of legs on each segment — giving it fourteen legs in all. Their bodies are different to those of insects too and will dry out if exposed to light for too long. So woodlice come out at night and hide away during the day to avoid drying out.

Woodlice feed on dead plant material such as dead leaves, rotten wood and dead plant roots. They play a very important role in the food chain as the nutrients locked in the plants are broken down and released by their activities. This is why they are so abundant in the leaf litter at the bottom of a hedge or in woodland. They in turn are part of the food chain, being eaten by spiders, pygmy shrews, hedgehogs and any bird sharp-eyed enough to see them. We have over 20 different species of woodlouse in Ireland — one called the pill bug is able to roll itself into a sphere when disturbed and this helps it to evade capture.

Things to do
1.    Do woodlice prefer light or darkness?
Get a shoebox. Have half the box covered with a lid. Put six of the woodlice into this box. Have a second similar shoebox with no lid as a control to show that you are doing a fair test, and put the other six in there. Come back later and observe where the woodlice are. They will all be in the shady side of the box.
2.    Do woodlice prefer damp or dry?
You can set up a similar experiment with the two boxes only this time no lids on either but a damp sponge in one section of one of the boxes and a dry sponge in a different section. Put two dry sponges in the second box. Put six woodlice in each and observe what happens. Are there more woodlice at the damp sponge than at the dry sponge?

Wasps (All About)

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

The wasp is a much-maligned insect. It actually does not spend its time going round looking for humans to sting! The life cycle of the wasp actually plays a very important role in our natural environment. Wasps are native social insects.

This means that there is a queen and a colony of workers that live together in a nest. The queen hibernates for winter and in March wakes up. She emerges, chooses a nest site and begins to build a paperlike nest from chewed up timber. This nest can be in a hedge, in an attic or roof space, or in a disused shed. She lays eight eggs and when the eggs grow into worker wasps they take over the running of the nest. The queen goes into egg production full time and the workers build six-sided cells for the eggs. The workers are all female and they feed the baby wasps with chewed up greenflies, aphids and other insect garden pests. The adult wasps, on the other hand, feed on a sweet-tasting substance excreted by the grubs in the nest.

So all summer long from April to August, wasps do a great deal of good, keeping down the numbers of harmful plant pests. By the end of August, the queen will have laid up to 40,000 eggs and is beginning to tire. The nest can be the size of a football by now. The workers build different shaped cells in which eggs are laid that go on to be queens, while different shaped cells again cause her to lay eggs that produce drones.

These all leave the nest when mature, mate with those from other nests and the newly fertilized queens go into hibernation at once and emerge to start the cycle all over again next March. The old queen back at the original nest lays a last round of eggs and dies by the end of August. This last round of worker wasps have no younger babies to feed with insects, nor indeed any grubs to lick sweettasting liquid from. It is these last wasps during the months of September and October, for the six weeks lifespan that they have, that have to hunt everywhere for sweet food. They can eat nectar from flowers, or suck the juices of fallen apples and blackberries. But many of them do come into our homes seeking sugar there.

Of course they will sting if assaulted by an angry or terrified human. But they don’t seek us out deliberately to sting us. By the end of October, they will all have died. The nest is empty and won’t be used by next year’s queen. The whole cycle will begin again the following March.

About their sting — the sting of a wasp is like a needle and can be withdrawn after it is used in order to sting again. The bee has a sting with a serrated edge which gets stuck in our thick skin and cannot be withdrawn so a bee is torn apart as it tries to withdraw it from a human and will later die.

Things to do
1.    Get hold of a disused, empty wasps’ nest. Spray it with hair spray to render it less brittle. Bring into school and let the class examine the nest in detail. It can be cut in half in due course so that the intricate cell structure can be appreciated.

Vetch (All About)

Environmental awareness and care (Geography/Science), Living things (Science) / Science

The vetch is also a plant that grows in shady areas. It uses a different strategy to survive in a habitat where light is restricted — it can climb up towards available light. It is a member of the pea family — the legumes. Like the sweet pea that flowers in gardens, it produces tendrils at the end of its leaves. The leaves are positioned alternately along the stem and each leaf consists of a number of opposite pairs of leaflets. At the end of each leaf however, is a set of stringy tendrils which seek for something to catch onto. In the wild hedge this is usually other plants such as brambles, or grasses. With this support, the plant is able to assist its passage upwards towards the light.

As a result, it can flower later than hedge flowers with no such support and the purple flowers of the vetch can be seen in hedges right up to the end of July. As it is a member of the pea family, the flower is typical of this family. It is described as being irregular — the petals are not symmetrical around a centre but are of different sizes and shapes and form a closed hood over the male and female parts. As a result, the flower is self-fertile and pollination occurs inside the closed flower. The seeds are carried in pods similar to those of a pea but much smaller and these turn black when ripe. The pods then split open suddenly and the seeds inside are shot out by the force. They settle further away and a new plant can then germinate.

All members of the legume family including vetches are, unusually among plants, able to fix nitrogen directly from the air. Plants need nitrogen for growth and cell formation, and normally plants absorb it from the soil in the form of nitrate. Vetches however have nodules on their roots which are formed in conjunction with special soil dwelling bacteria and these nodules are able to absorb nitrogen in a gaseous form directly from the air around the roots. When the plants rot back into the soil after death, the nitrogen is released as nitrate and thus leguminous plants enrich the soil in which they grow for other plants. This is why gorse can grow so well on poor soil or why farmers used to plant clover — another member of the legume family — in their pastures to improve conditions for grass growth.

Things to do
1.    Go out to hedges in May and June and look for this plant. Observe its tendrils holding on to other plants.
2.    Grow vegetable peas and sweet peas in the school garden or in pots in the classroom window and watch how they grow and climb.