LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature - Blanket bog school programme
- Michael Bell, Nuala Madigan (Irish Peatland Conservation Council), Aengus Kennedy
- Ten primary schools from counties Donegal, Mayo and Sligo
- Science, History, Geography
Wild Atlantic Nature LIFE Integrated Project (IP) is a nine-year environmental project (2021-2029) led by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. It aims to improve Ireland’s performance in conserving habitats, and in particular to improve the conservation status in the Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) Network of blanket bog, a priority habitat under the Habitats Directive. The primary focus is on 35 Natura 2000 sites in counties Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo and Galway. The project works with farmers and local communities to conserve and improve the quality of blanket bogs and associated habitats, and the ecosystem services they provide including clean water, carbon storage and biodiversity.
As part of the project, a pilot voluntary Results Based agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBPS) will be linked to the quality of the habitat, thereby putting the landowner, their skills, expertise and knowledge of their land central to the development of this project. The project will also implement a number of actions aimed at enhancing wider community engagement in the project. These include establishing local support groups across the project sites, developing and implementing community knowledge exchange programmes, administering community outreach activities, developing a schools education programme, supporting communities to develop and manage tourism and recreational activities and develop appropriate infrastructure. Another key action of the project will be a national campaign to enhance public awareness and appreciation of Ireland’s Natura 2000 network.
The project brings together the experience and knowledge of associated partners including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, RTÉ, Coillte, Fáilte Ireland, The Heritage Council, Bord na Móna, Teagasc, Northern & Western Regional Assembly, and Universidade de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The Heritage Council was tasked with the action to develop and pilot test a schools’ programme. The aim would be to promote local awareness of the LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature project amongst schools and involve children in assessing a local blanket bog habitat using the scorecard. The hands-on, practical involvement would introduce children to the project and their local blanket bogs and build enthusiasm for blanket bogs generally - an enthusiasm which, it was hoped, they would share with their families, friends, and neighbours.
Participating schools received a full day visit from a Heritage in Schools Specialist which included an introduction to the programme and resources, followed by a field trip to a local bog. Resources developed included a teacher’s resource pack, a child-friendly scorecard, a facilitator's guide and PowerPoint for use in the classroom and the Wild Atlantic Bog Plants identification swatch. Visits were scheduled and delivered in October and November to two schools in Donegal, seven in Mayo and three in Sligo.
The suite of resources were developed by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council and Aengus Kennedy (NatureNorthWest) with input from the project partners.
Schools were asked to complete a short online questionnaire following their visit and provide feedback on key areas – feedback was received from 11 of the 12 participating schools. Most children involved were from senior classes and the average group size was 25.
- 54% of respondents reported having some knowledge of blanket bog habitats, whilst almost 30% had some prior knowledge of the LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature project.
- All 11 schools rated the structure and content of the visit, the children’s response, the resources, and the overall experience of the pilot as ‘excellent’.
- Ten schools said they shared knowledge with family, and 9 shared what they learned with the wider school community.
- All said they planned to continue bog studies and would recommend the programme to other schools.
The following resources were developed to support the primary school programme which was launched in June 2022.
Primary schools in the LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature project areas are invited to take part in the free Heritage in Schools blanket bog programme. Visit https://www.wildatlanticnature... for information on project areas. For information on booking a visit contact Maria Walsh, Heritage in Schools Programme Manager: Email: email@example.com/ Ph: 056 777 777