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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

A time when we learned once more that no man is an island

Francis Farragher

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Country singer Dolly Parton getting the jab: she sang about it and part-funded research on the vaccine.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

One of the oft-repeated pub jokes whenever the price drink was increased, whether it by Finance Ministers or publicans who felt that their margins were being whittled away, was that: “As long as it doesn’t get scarce, we’ll be happy enough.”

Who could have believed though in the first month or two of 2020 that this scenario would unfold (at least in pubs), where the opportunity to meet friends – and the odd ‘auld enemy’ too – over a couple of pints in the local bar would be snatched away from us?

We probably have learned to adapt to the reality of the pandemic and most of us will remember the real sense of fear and constriction that pervaded our every word and action early last year.

2020 was the universal version of ‘annus horribilis’ – the term made famous by Queen Elizabeth in 1992 when royal marriages started to collapse like cards houses in the breeze.

Being of rural stock, I loved the little video earlier this from country music icon, Dolly Parton, who adapted a verse of her famous Jolene song to mark her first shot of the Moderna vaccine (she also donated $1 million to its research) in a very sincere effort to try and encourage the general public to get inoculated.

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,

I’m begging of you not to hesitate,

Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,

Cause when you’re dead that’s a bit too late.”

A year before that, times were indeed very strange across Ireland and indeed the world. I remember on the Sunday night before St. Patrick’s Day when a sense of incredulity greeted the news in my own local that ‘a lot of the pubs in Galway city were closing down’. Surely, this couldn’t happen in our own little watering hole in the sticks, but it did.

Michael Karmen’s soundtrack from the Band of Brothers series – a wonder piece of music even to my untrained ear – will always remind me of that early Spring period of lockdown in 2020.

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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Connacht Tribune

Beat the leaks with reusable Nixx

Denise McNamara

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Ellie Loftus creator of Nixx.

Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Ellie Loftus is one of those super high achievers who makes you feel totally inadequate.  A registered nurse with two postgraduates, one in paediatrics and the other in intensive care, she also has a Masters of Science in Health from UCD. She was Regional Child and Adolescent Health Development Officer for the HSE from 2003 to 2008.

The native of Crossmolina who lives in Barna then decided to go and get herself a law degree and was later called to the Bar. She is currently working as a barrister.

In her spare time, Ellie is a sprinter. She runs for Ireland as a master athlete and competed before lockdown at the European Athletics Championships.

And it wasn’t just running that she excelled at. She represented Ireland on the first female Irish Olympic bobsleigh team, taking part in four World Cups. She was sought out by Prince Albert of Monaco for a chat because she was from Mayo, the home of his beloved late mother Grace Kelly.

Now, at the age of 49, this dynamo has pivoted again, this time setting up her own business. She has drawn on her experience of working with adolescents in the HSE, being a mom of two girls and her years as an athlete.

Nixx.ie is a period and bladder leak range of underwear that could revolutionise sanitary care.

The underwear is reusable by throwing it in the washing machine and can be worn without a tampon or pad.

Each pair consists of four layers of specialised fabrics. Because they can be worn without sanitary products, they are a much more sustainable solution. The first sanitary pads invented are still in a landfill somewhere as they take between 500 and 800 years to decompose.

They also turn up everywhere you don’t want to see them. Sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches, more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws.

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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Connacht Tribune

Stepping out of time in Burren Lands

Judy Murphy

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Lifestyle – Sacred sites and traditional crafts and placenames are among the wonders that unfold on a walking tour of the Burren led by Anna Casey Donohue. It all takes place on the lowlands and hills of the family farm south of Kinvara, where her husband John is the seventh generation of his family to work the land. JUDY MURPHY goes on a voyage of discovery, led by this retired teacher of Irish and Geography.

Driving towards the Burren from the village of Kinvara, its majestic limestone mountains are a source of wonder, no matter how many times you see them. From a distance, they’re amazing. But it’s only when you get up close, you realise how this seemingly inhospitable landscape teems with wildlife and history.

That wealth of nature, heritage and also spirituality is what Anna Casey Donohue wants people to experience when they take to the hills behind her house on the Clare-Galway border. And there’s no doubt, once you go off the road and start walking towards a field known locally as Páirc na Liadhas, the outside world seems to melt away.

Páirc na Liadhas translates into English as ‘the Field of the Grey Habits’, Anna explains. Located across the hill from Oughtmama, which was an important monastic site in the early Middle Ages, and close to the 13th Century Corcomroe Abbey, this place is steeped in folk history, much of which has long passed into the mists of time. But previous generations remembered Páirc na Liadhas as an area which was home to an order of grey-robed nuns. And as we make the gentle ascent towards the field – a green oasis on the mountain’s lower slopes with hawthorn and hazel copses all around – Anna informs the small group of walkers that it contains the ruins of a convent, which, it’s believed, was connected to the monastic community of Corcomroe.

Anna, a retired secondary school teacher who runs Burren Explore, is a mine of knowledge when it comes to the Burren’s geography, folklore and placenames – and the joy she gets from sharing that knowledge is palpable.

She’s originally from Kilbeacanty in the foothills of the Sliabh Aughty Mountains on the other side of Gort and this farm on which we are walking was inherited by her husband Johnny,  the seventh generation of his family to work this land – doing so in line with the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme.

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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