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Kayaking lessons make a big splash with Ennis students

THE latest lessons at Scoil Chríost Rí in Ennis have been causing quite a splash among its students. Last week saw 90 primary school students take part in a pilot programme introducing them to kayaking. This is just the first step of a project which is hoped to result in establishment of an Outdoor Adventure Hub at the riverside school which will benefit the entire town.
Kayak le Chéile was formed earlier this year by primary school teachers, Jó Mag Fhearadhaigh and Conor Healy, with a view to establishing a club in Ennis which would facilitate access to the River Fergus for water sports.
The new club began its ambitious programme with a Level 1 training course for staff members with an interest in kayaking. Nevsail Watersports provided tuition and the course was attended by representatives from Gaelscoil Mhichíl Ciosóg, Clare Youth Services, Scoil Chríost Rí and the local community. 
With the support of Clare Sports Partnership, a pilot programme for an introductory course in kayaking was arranged for fourth, fifth and sixth classes at the school. This took place last week and was an instant hit with both staff and students alike. Burren Outdoor Adventure provided the kayaks and expert tuition, and were delighted with the enthusiasm and excitement of all participants. 
Joe Garry of Scoil Chríost Rí told us that the children who took part “had an absolute ball”. “This was a fantastic opportunity for them to go out onto the river, to go right up the River Fergus was amazing. Out of the 90 students who were involved I’d say less than five would have done something like this before.”
He said that the week-long course has far reaching benefits. “Outdoor adventure forms part of the curriculum, and it is important that the children get that experience. Also as we don’t have access to our normal swimming lessons at the moment this also supports the school in teaching water safety. It was great to see the children getting out into the air, which there is a big emphasis now with the current restrictions. But also to see their confidence grow, some who might have been a bit nervous at first being in a kayak, this was such as big thing for them.”
Among those out on the water with the kids was local priest Fr Ger Fitzgerald who had completed the level 1 course.
Fr Fitzgerald told us “this was a really great experience and is a fantastic project. As we all know, the river flowing through Ennis is all too often associated with sadness and tragedy but this initiative allowed the children to see the river in a whole new light. I went out twice, once with the staff and once with the pupils of the school. I can honestly say that on both occasions a great time was had by all, despite the numerous attempts of certain people to test the ‘sinkability’ and endurance of my kayak.
“It was really great to see people enjoying what is a truly beautiful resource in Ennis and it was wonderful to see the happiness and joy that this project brought to the young people and that is the most important thing. They are tomorrow’s world and their experience now will help to form them and this was truly a great experience. Congratulations to all involved, including all staff, instructors and everyone who took part. It’s these kind of thing that make Cloughleigh great.”
Mr Garry tells us there are ambitious plans in the future for the club. “With backing from the local Sports partnership, Kayak le Chéile was recently successful in its application to the Dormant Accounts Fund for funding to establish an Outdoor Adventure Hub at the school.”
The club’s plans include a kayak shed, a number of single and double sit-on kayaks and relevant water safety equipment. “Hopefully this will be the first step on what will be a huge addition not just for the school but for the whole town. This is an opportunity not just for Scoil Chríost Rí but for other schools and the wider community. We are due to meet with Clare Sports Partnership to see when we can make a start drawing up plans, but hopefully by 2021 we will see some action.”
Already this week another Level 1 course has been arranged for staff members from local schools and Clare Youth Services.

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