Teachers from all over Northern Ireland recently gathered to find out about the benefits of Outdoor Learning with one Lurgan teacher coming away with a very special award!
Dwyer Coleman from St Francis’ Primary School in Lurgan was named as Eco-teacher of the Year.
Research has shown that teaching young people in and about the natural environment improves their physical and mental health and also improves their learning potential. Instilling knowledge and a love for the environment in children from a young age is also likely to increase their desire to protect it as they grow older.
With the modern trend for children to spend less and less time in nature these are powerful and essential messages.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful’s Eco-Schools Teachers Conference was hosted at Stranmillis University College with support from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. The event was attended by over 75 schools with 120 teachers and pupils hearing compelling evidence from keynote speakers Judy Braus, North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE) and Dr William Bird, Intelligent Health on how and why outdoor learning was so critical to health and wellbeing.
Judy Braus, NAAEE said: “It was so inspiring to see what hundreds of teachers and students are accomplishing in Northern Ireland through the Eco-Schools program. These committed educators are building future global citizens who understand how individuals and communities can work together to create a more sustainable future. They are also ensuring that all kids—starting with the very youngest—spend time in nature and learn to care about the places where they live.”
Teachers were able to learn more about delivering outdoor environmental learning through a selection of workshops at the event provided by the RSPB, Ulster Wildlife, Trócaire, Jilly Dougan Edible Gardens, Dr Sue Christie, Judy Braus and Dr William Bird. Exhibits were also provided by Eco-Schools, Live Here Love Here, Belfast City Council the Global Learning Programme, Sustrans, Beat the Street, Stranmillis University College, Helping Hand, Heyn, and Wicksteed. Translink and IKEA kindly provided prizes for the Eco-Teacher of the Year Award.
Eco-Schools is the world’s leading environmental education programme. It is a pupil-led initiative with the aim to make environmental awareness and practical action part of school life. Eco-Schools is operated by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. Schools work through a simple seven-step process towards achieving the internationally recognised Green Flag.