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Expanding Inagh’s horizons

Sixth class pupils Eoin Brennan, Jason McCarthy, Sarah White and Aoife Fitzgibbon working on their Comenius project at St Flannan’s National School, Inagh.  Photograph by John Kelly

Sixth class pupils Eoin Brennan, Jason McCarthy, Sarah White and Aoife Fitzgibbon working on their Comenius project at St Flannan’s National School, Inagh.  Photograph by John Kelly

Teachers in a North Clare school will travel to France early next month as part of a European cultural education programme. Two teachers from St Flannan’s National School in Inagh will go to Avignon as part of the Comenius programme, which the school has been taking part in since September.Run by Léargas in Ireland, Comenius seeks to develop knowledge, understanding and appreciation among young people and education staff of the diversity of European cultures and languages. It also aims to help young people acquire basic life skills for their personal development for future employment and active European citizenship.
Children from St Flannan’s have been busy since work began on the project at the beginning of the school year learning about their own culture and heritage as well as that of their European counterparts.
According to Caroline McGeary, the co-ordinator of Comenius in the school, the project has been time-consuming for the pupils but also integrates well with the overall curriculum.
“Our programme is called TEACH, Tell Everyone About Cultural Heritage, and we want to share information about our school and our area with the other schools across Europe and they do the same thing. Within TEACH, our theme is ‘Buildings’. One of the groups in the school is looking at the Ennistymon Workhouse and how it is linked to The Famine, another group is looking at Bunratty Castle so they both fit into history. The younger children are looking at the old schoolhouse here and the new one and making comparisons between the experience of previous generations and their own. They are also looking at the sustainability of the buildings for the future,” Ms McGeary explained.
Principal Anne Quinn initiated the school’s involvement in the two-year programme in September and since then the pupils have put together posters and a Power Point presentation about their area and these have been sent to each of the other five schools they are linked with through the project. The children are also emailing their counterparts in Finland, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey and most recently sent them Christmas greetings.
Next October, the school will host teachers from each of the other participating schools and will show them aspects of Clare’s cultural heritage.
“The project is really only starting but already the enthusiasm to learn about other places is there in the children. They are also excited to promote their own locality and show how proud they are of it. The links with other schools are great too because the pupils here love to see what other children are doing and see their culture and heritage,” Ms McGeary said.
The fifth and sixth class of St Flannan’s National School in Inagh explained what Comenius has involved. 
“The project includes six different European countries, France, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Finland and Turkey. In September, Ms McGeary and Ms Darcy went to Germany for the project.  Before they went we had to make a PowerPoint presentation about our school and the village,” the senior pupils recalled.
The pupils split into groups of five and each had an area to research. After they finished the research, they went on a nature walk and took photographs of the river, the church and the GAA pitch.
“Back in school, we went around to all of the classes and discussed with them what they wanted to put in the presentation. We then typed this up and put pictures of each class along with it. After the PowerPoint was completed we presented it to the whole school on our new interactive whiteboards. In Germany, Ms McGeary showed it to all of the teachers and staff from the different countries,” the children explained.
“It was very interesting learning about the schools in the other European countries. We are now doing a project on the history of buildings of Clare as part of the Comenius project, including Bunratty Castle, homes, Ennistymon and workhouses. In January, Ms Carroll and Ms Blackwell are going to France. They will bring the work we have done so far on these buildings with them and present the work to the other schools. They will bring back information about buildings in the other countries,” the fifth and sixth class concluded.

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