Ireland’s second largest National Park has played host to a special gathering of Transition Year students from all over Donegal to celebrate the end of a year-long pilot learning initiative run by the NPWS Education team.
Since September last year, over 100 students have been involved in the ‘Protect Nature’ programme which focuses on young people and aims to raise awareness of the role and value of National Parks and Nature Reserves and how to protect nature.
The programme involves classroom-based work, outreach visits, and educational trips to the park itself culminating in the presentation of students’ work in an exhibition in the Park Visitor Centre.
Learning about and visiting a National Park can help raise awareness of Ireland’s biodiversity and grow appreciation and respect for the life-giving systems that nature provides us with. As part of its education and awareness brief, NPWS has popular education programmes being delivered in many of its sites and Glenveagh has piloted this initiative so that its potential for roll-out in other sites can be considered.
The programme is also run in partnership with ‘Leave No Trace Ireland’ with students encouraged to learn about responsible outdoor recreation and environmental impacts when visiting a protected area for conservation. NPWS is a core member of Leave No Trace Ireland and Glenveagh is the first National Park to become an accredited site.
The learning outcomes for the course were:
* To raise awareness of the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the importance of protected areas for nature conservation.
* To offer a learning experience with a more an in depth approach as opposed to a one off visit to a National Park.
* To help students consider positive actions they can take to protect nature and the environment.
* To challenge students to think about their own values and behaviour towards the environment while encouraging
responsible citizenship and stewardship.
* To provide opportunities for the students to consider careers linked to National Parks, conservation & biodiversity.
* To foster creative thinking and innovation across a range of subjects through project work.
The programme content is designed to fulfil the environmental requirements of the Transition Year curriculum and offer students the opportunity to develop their awareness of nature and biodiversity across a range of subjects including biology, geography, maths, and civic responsibility.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD “I would like to congratulate all of the students who were involved with this year’s projects. It is delightful to see so many young people gathered in one of our great National Parks to showcase the important work that is being carried out as part of the ‘Protect Nature’ programme. National Parks can offer a safe haven for nature and biodiversity and the projects on display here show they can also serve as a wonderful educational resource to encourage future generations to think more deeply about our relationship to nature and biodiversity.”
NPWS Divisional Manager, Susan Callaghan said “Environmental education is an integral part of nature conservation and is key in the delivery on NPWS’s core remit of nature protection. The Transition Year programme in Glenveagh National Park gives time and space for students to consider the importance of biodiversity in their lives and to delve into the issues around biodiversity loss. Ultimately from this they can become a positive influence for nature protection.”
Following evaluation of the programme and feedback from teachers and students, the Education Team at Glenveagh hope to roll out the initiative again in the new academic year. The team are also planning to visit all the secondary schools in Donegal in September to further build relationships in the local community and promote responsible and sustainable experiences in the Park for young people.