St. Augustine’s National School in Clontuskert were honoured to welcome Bernard Kirk to their school last Tuesday, the 28th of September. Bernard is Director of Galway Education Centre which is one of a network of 21 Centres funded by the Department of Education & Science and responsible for the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of all teachers at both Primary and Post Primary levels. The Centre delivers CPD to 5,000 teachers in 295 schools in the region which is spread over urban and rural areas. Bernard is also acting National Co-ordinator of T4 with responsibility for the roll out of training for 1,300 teachers of the technology subjects at second level, throughout the country. Bernard introduced FIRST LEGO® League to Ireland (www.roboticsireland) and he coordinates the competition in Galway with the winners moving on to participate in the UK final.
Bernard visited the school to learn about the exciting LEGO® Robotics projects that are being run in the school under the banner of the Empowering Minds Group of Ireland. He was delighted to hear first-hand accounts from the students about the robotics building and programming they undertook last year as part of a project on Local Waterways. The children visited Pollboy Lock and Portumna Bridge as guests of Waterways Ireland to learn about the working mechanisms of both. They interviewed engineers working on the structures to give them insights into gear and motor systems which would aid the construction of their working models. They then programmed them to move using the LEGO® Mindstorms Robotics System. The students worked in groups to research the Grand Canal and its link to the town of Ballinasloe. They enjoyed a history lesson from Joe Molloy, editor of the book The Parish of Clontuskert; Glimpses into its Past, on the canal and its path through the parish towards Ballinasloe. Details of this project can be seen on www.clontuskert.scoilnet.ie
Bernard was especially interested in a science and mathematics project currently being run in the school concerning the harnessing of wind energy through wind turbines. The students studied the structure of turbines and have built scale working models which they presented to Brendan on the day. This project will tie in with the school’s environmental awareness work for which they recently achieved the Green Flag Award.
Indeed the students of Clontuskert National School do not plan to rest on their laurels this year. Planning is currently being undertaken to begin a cross curricular project that will link schools on the Galway- Dublin train route. The Keep on Track project will take place in the third term when Clontuskert plans to embark on a study of trains in history with a special focus on the stations on the Galway-Dublin route. They hope to link the schools on the line through use of Web 2.0 tools such as Skype and Twitter and all findings and work produced by the schools will be recorded on a group blog. This project has the potential to engage students with their curricular subjects in a motivating manner and offers opportunities to connect with and learn from other schools. Galway Education Centre will be supporting schools involved in the Keep on Track project which will allow the schools involved to interact with ‘real life’ learning.