Heritage in Schools working with Focus Ireland - Project | Heritage in Schools

Heritage in Schools working with Focus Ireland

Orla Bates
Focus Ireland
Science, History

Through funding from Creative Ireland a Heritage in Schools day was organised in collaboration with Focus Ireland. The project was co-ordinated by the Heritage Council through the Heritage in Schools Scheme and delivered by Heritage in Schools Specialist Orla Bates. The project also received support from Kilkenny Castle.

The focus of the day was an organised visit to a local Heritage site with a natural outdoor setting for children affected by homelessness. The day was devised around the idea of providing these children with access to a cultural and creative activity with a particular emphasis on the role that local heritage can contribute to a child’s sense of identity and place. It was also a wonderful opportunity to get exploring and learning outdoors.

The outing took place during the mid-term break when children were on school holidays. This provided the opportunity for parents and guardians to take part in the visit with their children.

We all met at the entrance to Kilkenny Castle where Maria Walsh from Heritage in Schools and I greeted the participants. The group included children, parents, guardians and staff from Focus Ireland. Kilkenny Castle was an ideal setting as it has a magnificent castle structure set on acres of parkland with mature trees and an abundance of wildlife for our outdoor activities. We began with a tour of the castle. The children were very excited and eager to begin exploring! We were met by a tour guide in the reception room of the castle who gave a child friendly introduction to make it more accessible for the younger children in the group. The tour was self guided and a guide was also on hand as we made our way through the many impressive rooms. The children and parents had many questions for the tour guides in the different rooms. We learned all about the castle and its many occupants over the years. The tour guides were very passionate and knowledgeable and told us lots of fascinating stories which the children found intriguing.

After the tour it was time for the children to get outdoors to explore the flora and fauna of the Castle Park and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. We discovered a playground in a wooded area where the children had an energising break. Following this we all participated in a nature scavenger hunt in the grounds. The children all received a nature journal which they very eagerly filled it with leaves from the hunt. The children learned the names of many different leaves and their matching trees. Learning outdoors was great for encouraging the children’s creativity. Being away from the constraints and confinement of being indoors, the children’s imaginations were stimulated by the natural surroundings.

After a stroll through the town to Heritage Council building, lunch was served to very hungry bunch of children! Following lunch the children and parents participated in a visual art workshop which drew on their experience of the mornings activities.

The children made symbols which expressed their ideas and response to the visit to the castle and the outdoors environment.

The symbols were incorporated into making paper lanterns which the children and parents brought home with them. The idea of making lanterns was to represent a light for hope and could be safely illuminated on their return as a glowing remembrance of their day out.