The Irish Plant-for-the-Planet project got off to a flying start with the first ever Plant-for-the-Planet Academy to take place on the island of Ireland in the flagship Eco-School, St. Laurence’s in January of 2017. The weekend’s events began with the arrival of the UK team the day before the Academy, travelling in an all-electric Nissan LEAF along the shores of the UNESCO biosphere of Dublin Bay to the school located beside the Baldoyle estuary.
The delegation from Hampshire, England together with experienced Climate Change Ambassadors Erin and Hannah, (14), parent and environmentalist Leonie and Co-ordinator of Plant-for-the-Planet UK Wendy.
Chief Executive of the County of Fingal, Mr. Paul Reid, local Senator Aodhán O Riordáin and many distinguished guests including The Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Eoghan O Brien assembled for a tree-planting ceremony in the school’s “Tiny Forest”. This one- are sized plantation which the children dubbed their “WildAREness” is densely planted with native trees and wildflowers and helped the school win “Best Community Garden” recently. Much fun was had by all; the ground had a healthy quantity of earthworms adding to the entertainment.
Our Planting Action weekend continued with welcoming words from the school principal, Ms. Claire Finnerty, and preview of a film series made by the school’s Green Committee with the Tree Council of Ireland, “The Irish Tree Trail”.
It was sent a generous donation from our local Lidl supermarket and everybody enjoyed a shopping spree for drinks, food and stationery for the Academy. It was collected a further welcome donation from another local supermarket (Nolan’s of Clontarf) of large crates of Fruit Shoots. The supplies were now ready for the big day, including the donation of superb gloves from local supporters, Grange Builders Providers.
The Academy was an extremely enjoyable event; feedback from all concerned showed that the highlight of the day was the tree planting itself, closely followed by the arrival of the pizzas for lunch! It was a great treat for everybody to have not only such stellar representatives from Plant-for-the-Planet UK to assist us in our first endeavour but 2 children from the U.S. who were most impressed with the initiative and took the idea home with them to their schools in Baltimore, Maryland. All the participants greatly enjoyed the chance to make new friends, local and international. The most startling moment for many children was realising during the presentations how for Dublin, rising seas pose a real flooding threat to our citizens.
All participants benefited from the games and workshops during the day and we were very grateful to all the volunteers including the Chairwoman of the School’s Board of Management, Corinne, who attended with her tree-loving sons, both past-pupils of St. Laurence’s and keen young environmentalists. Among many superb volunteers were Tree-Farmer Scary Mary and her daughters from Woolly Ward’s farm, and Consultant Climate Expert Dr. Evelyn Murphy.
We were very grateful to Fingal County Council and its Parks Department for providing us with trees, tools and best of all the expertise in leading the Planting Party. Wendy has sterling experience in giving the safety instructions and older and younger children were paired to best optimise the digging of holes. The location chosen is prone to flooding and the trees chosen were particularly suitable for the site, providing a solution for this problem. We were watched by one of the flocks of Brent Geese who regularly feed in the park.
The evening presentation was a great success, where children outlined projects they planned for their own schools and the solutions to the problems they had addressed; planting trees of course. The presentation was attended by many dignitaries including the Mayor of Fingal, Cllr. Darragh Butler who presented the New Ambassadors with their certification and warmly congratulated the young environmentalists for their good citizenry. Parents and grandparents, several of whom had come along earlier in the day to assist with the day’s events were enthusiastic in their praise of the efforts of all concerned.
Since the Academy much work has been done as follow-up. The school has entered our initiative for several national competitions and we are currently in the top 20 primary schools in the country’s Sustainable Energy schools’ competition. We have twinned with schools in Cape Town and Johannesburg and are promoting the planting of a matching tree in the global south for every tree planted on Irish soil. We sent a delegation to these cities in February 2017, delivering gifts from Ireland of trees and to discuss co-operation for our mutual benefit. Our Minister for Education and Skills and the Chief Executive of the Tree Council of Ireland joined us in March for tree-planting activities and to launch our film guide to our Native Trees, an event which received national media attention.
A huge thanks to all concerned for the extraordinary help with these unique events. We hope ours will be the first of many Irish Plant-for-the-Planet Academies. As we say in Ireland, “Tús Maith Leath na h-Oibre”, or “A good Start is Half the Work”.
Please, find more photos from this day at our Flickr ALBUM