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Preparing children for life in the real world

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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.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Celebrations to forge new links

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Ester Kiely, Eilís Ní Dhonncha and Gráinne Ní Bhroin from Headford Lace Project at the launch of Corrib Beo’s programme of Heritage Week events, ‘Connecting Corrib Communities’ at Claregalway Castle. Photo: Brian Harding.

Lifestyle – An initiative involving community groups from around the Corrib has been launched for Heritage Week, with events taking place to showcase the area’s many riches, while also creating new connections among organisations. JUDY MURPHY hears from some of the groups involved.

”Ní neart go cur le chéile,” says Eilís Nic Dhonncha of the Headford Lace Project as she quotes the old Irish proverb about strength in togetherness to describe a new initiative which involves 13 communities around the Corrib, lake and river.

Linking Corrib Communities is running as part of Heritage Week and involves people from different communities showcasing their local heritage while also working to develop closer ties with each other.

The initiative, organised by the voluntary umbrella group Corrib Beo, was launched in Claregalway Castle on Tuesday at an event attended by people from all around Lough Corrib, including Fine Gael Senator, Seán Kyne (Moycullen), and Cllr Frank Fahy (Menlo).

But most of all, this was an occasion for people involved in the historic, cultural and leisure life of their local communities, and among the highlights was a demonstration of bobbin lacemaking from members of the Headford Lace Project, in the castle.

The Headford group came into being in 2016 to revive a craft that had been synonymous with the area from the mid-1700s to the early 1900s – census returns from 1911 show it was still alive in that year – but which died out as machines took over the highly-skilled work, practised for so long by local women.

It had almost been forgotten by 2016 when the Headford Lace Project was created as part of the Small Town Big Ideas for Galway 2020. Since then, the group has done extraordinary work to research and revive this unique heritage. So much so that Headford Lace was last year granted UNESCO status, being placed on Ireland’s National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, up there alongside hurling.

Eilís and fellow project member, Ger Henry Hassett explain that people don’t need to be skilled at bobbin-work to get involved in the Headford Lace Project. While it’s a particularly intricate style of lacemaking, many other initiatives have taken place in the town, including one that involved local blacksmiths,  Pat Monaghan and Simon Harte, working with artist Róisín de Butléar to create a sculpture representing the tradition, located in the town’s square. There’s also ongoing research – a huge part of the project.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

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Connacht Tribune

Vitamin D and good postural balance may help as we age

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Having just turned 50 aging is particularly on my mind this month. So two recent studies about aging peaked my interest which are worth sharing. The first is a study from the University of South Australia and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is based on data from 294,514 participants from the UK Biobank, a biomedical database with half a million British participants.

Scientists found that in some populations, up to 17 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented simply by raising people’s vitamin D in the blood to 50 nmol/L, which is considered to be the normal level.

Dementia affects over 55 million people worldwide and every year 10 million new cases are diagnosed so the implications could be huge.

It is the first time the impact of very low levels of vitamin D are examined on the risks of dementia and stroke by using genetic analyses among a large study population.

There is widespread vitamin D deficiency among people worldwide, even in sunny regions where sun awareness campaigns, indoor living and other factors contribute to the low vitamin D levels,

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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Rev Fr Raymond Watters O.P recites a decade of the rosary as the rain begins to pour down during the Blessing of Galway Bay on August 15, 1882.

1922

Dawn surrender

National troops operating from Galway and Athenry at dawn on Wednesday morning surrounded an area about four miles between Liscananaun village and Aucloggeen, on the eastern side of the Corrib, and after a smart movement captured nineteen irregulars, with their officers, twenty-two service and Mauser rifles, a number of service revolvers and automatics, and considerable quantities of ammunition for bombs.

The National troops were under command of Co-Commandant Austin Brennan, O.C., Galway area, and the various battalion and company officers, and the plan to surround these villages, which lie in a marshy waste between the Curragh Line, or Galway-Headford road, and the main road from Galway to Tuam, was evolved after information had been received that a number of irregulars were quartered there, and were commandeering sheep and foodstuffs from people in surrounding districts.

Slowly and silently, accompanied by a Lancia armoured car on which machine guns were mounted, the National troops moved out from Galway shortly before two a.m. on Wednesday. One column took the Galway to Headford road, the other taking the Tuam road.

The column operating on the Headford road swung to the right beyond the Cregg river, taking the road to Drumgriffin. By dawn they had taken up extended formation in the woods around Cregg Castle, and this formed a trap into which the irregulars were subsequently driven.

Trade unions position

Mr. Cathal O’Shannon, T.D., in his presidential address at the Trade Union Congress on Monday, declare that organised Labour was separate from and independent of any political party, and would take no dictation from any quarter outside its own ranks.

He strongly protested against militarism, from whatever quarter it came, and condemned the political censorship of thought and opinion, the ignoring of laws relating to the custody of prisoners, the existence of a semi-military police force, and the propaganda on both sides.

The present conflict or strife, he declared, was unnecessary and counselled the Irish workers to keep aloof from it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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