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Preparing children for life in the real world

Judy Murphy

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Shane O’Connell, principal of Galway’s first Steiner National School: “Children learn for themselves – the teacher’s role is to guide them,” he says. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets Shane O’Connell, principal of Galway’s first Steiner National School which will open this September

Given Galway’s City’s reputation for arts and culture, it’s amazing that it has taken until now for the child-centred Steiner system of education to establish a foothold here.

Finally it has, and the principal of Galway’s first Steiner National School, which will open this September in Knocknacarra, is Tipperary-born Shane O’Connell.

The Steiner method of teaching, which places a huge value on arts, nature and imagination, was developed in Austria nearly 100 years ago by academic and mystic Rudolf Steiner. It caters for children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well as their academic requirements. Its ethos is co-educational and non-religious.

“It’s about fostering the child’s imagination,” says Shane who describes it as “experiential learning” rather than learning by rote.

The Steiner emphasis on hands-on education, and learning in the outdoors tallies with Shane’s approach, which he has honed by teaching in national schools in West Cork, including in Leap where he was vice-principal and in the International School of Havana, Cuba. He previously worked in Kenya as a volunteer after graduating from college.

Shane had initially qualified as an actuary, which set him up for a career in finance, assessing and managing risk. Instead, he opted to go to Kenya with the Volunteer Missionary Movement where he worked with a Catholic diocese in a region about the size of Ireland, helping to secure funds for schools which were passing from church to state ownership.

That experience led him to return to college and train as a primary teacher. Despite the fact that it’s a far less lucrative career financially than actuarial work, it was the right decision as teaching is his passion.  It’s a bit of a family passion – three of his four sisters are primary teachers, he says with a laugh.

“Steiner was something I was interested in and coming back from Cuba was the perfect time,” he says of his appointment to the Galway position.

He hopes the school will have 15 pupils when it opens, as this would entitle it to two teachers.

Starting off with Junior Infants it will grow by one class a year to have a full complement by the time this year’s intake has reached sixth class.

The school’s current location, on the Western Distributor Road, is temporary, and the plan is to move further out towards Barna, to be closer to woods and to the sea.

In preparation for his role as principal of the Knocknacarra school, Shane has spent time in two Steiner Schools in Co Clare. Raheen Woods in Tuamgraney was set up in the mid 1980s, while Mol an Óige in Ennistymon is 10 years old.

The children in both schools “have overalls and Wellingtons and out they go, whatever the weather” to learn outside.

“Children learn for themselves – the teacher’s role is to guide them,” explains Shane. “Steiner is very much about finding where a child is and letting them develop at their own stage.”

Traditionally, the Irish education system, even at primary level, was based on a child being passive rather than active, with rote learning being a cornerstone. Early reading was another linchpin – children began in Junior Infants at the age of four.

That State approach meant a system like Steiner, where children led the way was regarded with deep suspicion by the Department of Education.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Beautiful houses in tune with birds’ needs

Judy Murphy

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Raymond putting the finishing touches to the thatched cottage birdhouses. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Raymond Kenny designs houses by day and in his spare time, makes an array of architecturally inspired birdhouses as well as feeders and nesting boxes. What began as a hobby ten years ago turned into a business as he learned how to make durable, environmentally-friendly bird homes, designed meet the needs of their occupants, as he tells  JUDY MURPHY.

When Raymond Kenny is designing a home or home extension for a client, he goes through the person’s wish-list item by item, regarding each item as a problem to be solved.

“It’s about listing all the difficulties at the start and then designing them out,” explains Raymond, who has practised as an architect for three decades.

He adopted the same approach eight years ago when he started making birdhouses based on traditional architectural designs.

Today, he produces colourful, environmentally-friendly birdhouses, tables and nesting boxes in an immaculately tidy workshop to the rear of his Craughwell home.

An orderly system makes for an efficient working environment, says Raymond, who is originally from Lawrencetown in East Galway and who worked on major development projects in London in the late 1980s before returning to Ireland in the 1990s with his wife Olive and son Cathal.

Raymond now combines his day job designing homes for humans with his other passion – making homes for garden birds.

He always loved crafts, he explains, and is equally enthusiastic about science, which made this hobby particularly appealing.

In 2010, during the last recession, when construction work ground to a halt and Raymond had time on his hands, he decided to make a wooden birdhouse for his own enjoyment. The result was lovely but left him with a question. Was it possible to make a bird table that could survive the Irish climate?

No matter what kind of timber you’d use, sooner or later the weather would destroy it, he explains.

“I was half-way through making that first one when I said ‘this will rot’,” he recalls with a laugh.

Raymond went online to research how timber birdhouses could be made waterproof. Despite extensive exploration, he couldn’t find the answer. He shifted focus and began an online search for weatherproof material that would be lightweight, environmentally friendly and affordable.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Photographed at the Galway Races in 1961 were Miss Anne Gillane, Mrs. Seán Corrigan, Miss Gertrude Gilligan and Miss Emily Gilligan, all from Gort.

1920

Mad motorists

That traffic in Galway is ill-regulated and conducted without the smallest regard to the rules of the road or the interests or safety of those who use them is an assertion that is generally accepted even by those who are the worst offenders.

Yet a little attention to very simple and well-understood rules would enormously add to our comfort and convenience, especially on market days.

Recently there has been a considerable influx of country motors. Youthful drivers have shown almost criminal disregard for the traffic conditions of the City streets, which render driving at a speed of exceeding ten or twelve miles an hour, a dangerous a reckless proceeding.

Moreover, the lumbering military motor lorries have been, and are being, driven with an indifference that is no less culpable. We have heard complaints, even from those who are friendly to the soldiers, that drivers of these lorries never “give the road” to a passing vehicle.

Surely the Irish people have a right to use their own roads without being run down by mad motorists, whether they be reckless country youths who have never been taught the elementary principles of motor-driving, or ill-mannered and ill-disciplined soldiers?

Any clumsy fool can drive a car furiously on the middle of the road: trained drivers and gentlemen show that consideration for their own car and for other people which is the true hallmark of nobility of character.

City centre explosion

At ten minutes to three on Saturday morning the citizens of Galway were startled by a loud, dull explosion, which shattered the plate-glass window facing Shop-st. in the premises of Mr. Patrick J. O’Connor, who conducts popular tearooms, newsagency and fancy business in Mainguard-st., did some damage in the shop, and killed a pet fox terrier that was sleeping on the counter.

In view of recent happenings in the West and the attitude of intoxicated soldiers the previous night, no one dared to venture abroad, but Mr. Jordan who controls a boot shop next door, and whose sister is married to Mr. O’Connor, rushed to his neighbour’s aid, and found everything in the premises in a state of confusion, and the startled inhabitants rushing down the stairs in their night attire.

The little watch-dog lay dead upon the counter with a jagged wound on his side.

Mr. O’Connor is a young businessman who is exceedingly popular in the City. In politics, he is a Sinn Féiner; but it is inconceivable that any party or section of the community could have a grudge against him of a nature that would lead to Saturday morning’s outrage.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Evergreen emerges from Covid to open eighth store

Denise McNamara

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Aideen and Kieran Hurley at the Evergreen store at Galway Shopping Centre on the Headford Road.

Health, Beauty and Lifestyle  with Denise McNamara

It’s been a busy lockdown for Evergreen Heathfoods, even though its two owners were forced to cocoon. Now on the verge of opening their eighth store, Aideen and Kieran Hurley show no signs of slowing down despite being in their mid-70s.

“We’re hoping we’ll keep going. We’re both pretty healthy. I’ve cut down on the hours a bit and that’s as far as we’ve gone, gradually cutting back. You have to have the interest to get out of bed in the morning,” she confides.

While their stores on Mainguard Street and in the Galway Shopping Centre were very quiet, the ones in outlying suburbs got very busy and the online store doubled its trade.

“We found while customer count was down, the spend was up, so they weren’t coming in as much but when they did, they would do a big shop.”

The biggest products in demand during the height of the pandemic were vitamin C, D and zinc.

“There’s been a lot of research that vitamin C reduces the severity of the infection. Vitamin D can play a critical role in promoting an immune response and it acts as an anti-inflammatory which may help with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

“Zinc regulates the immune system so you that you have enough T cells to gobble up the virus.”

They also couldn’t not keep enough flour and yeast on the shelves as confined households turned to baking like never before.

“We always have a lot of our customers who come in for organic flour and unbleached flour. All the food has kept up well – people are still cooking and baking at home and not going out as much to restaurants.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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