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In Pictures: Phenomenal achievement as rural Laois primary school receive four national awards

A rural Laois primary school has been the recent recipient of a staggering four national awards

Scoil Fionntáin Naofa Shanahoe have been awarded a Green Schools Flag for biodiversity, an Active School flag, a Curious Minds Platinum Award for STEM, and a Blue Star Flag for all things European related.

Green Schools Flag

The hardworking Green School committee, under the guidance and direction of Assistant Principal and Green Schools coordinator Ms Kris Cahill, worked tirelessly to promote the biodiversity agenda at school level over the course of the last two school years.

Initiatives and projects undertaken included the development of a pollinator and bee garden in the school grounds, installation of new raised beds in the school’s vegetable patch, and participation in the Birdwatch Ireland Garden Bird Survey.

As part of the Heritage in Schools scheme, all classes collaborated to construct a willow dome in the school grounds using surplus foliage from the school’s existing willow tunnel.

Pupils also had workshops on biodiversity and composting with outside speakers.

The Green Flag for biodiversity is the school’s fifth green flag to be achieved to date.

Active School Flag

The Active Schools committee, under the guidance of Deputy Principal and Active Schools coordinator, Mr Johnny Watson, has done excellent work in promoting activity and fitness across the school over the course of the last two years.

Pupils participate in the Cumann na mBunscol football and hurling finals on an annual basis and both teams brought home silverware this year having emerged as victors in both football and hurling finals.

Close links are fostered at school level with local GAA Clubs, namely Colt-Shanahoe and Shanahoe Ladies GAA clubs, who are great supporters of the school.

In conjunction with Colt-Shanahoe, the school has the support of a qualified coach throughout the year as part of the Games Development initiative. In addition to this, many girls in the school also play camogie with Clough-Ballacolla.

All pupils in the school had a block of gymnastics lessons facilitated by Laois Sports Partnership this year, and all pupils from fistr- to sixth-class have swimming lessons each year.

A block of Tag Rugby is facilitated for all pupils in the school by Leinster Rugby in conjunction with Portlaoise Rugby Club in the Autumn term each year.

For the last two years, pupils have been registered to take place in the FAI Five-A-Side Soccer Blitz.

Every second year, pupils have a block of dancing lessons with the Aisling Walsh School of Dance. Funky Friday is facilitated on a weekly basis in the school grounds.

The school has an active walkway in place around the perimeter of the large grounds and this was put in place by former Deputy Principal, Ms Miriam Brickley prior to her retirement in 2022.

Pupils use the walkway throughout the week for different fitness and athletic challenges.

This is the school’s second Active Flag and which is now in place for until 2027.

Curious Minds Platinum Award

All classes in the school engaged in a wide range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learner experiences over the course of the school year 2023-2024.

A concerted effort is made to ensure that pupils in the school have access to a broad, balanced, relevant and stimulating curriculum across all four STEM areas, while also ensuring that active and collaborative learning is the cornerstone of all pupil learner experiences in this domain.

As well as weekly Science lessons, additional learner experiences include all classes participating in ‘Science Week’ activities in November each year.

In the technology space, pupils in the school made great strides in the school year, thanks in no small part to the wonderful support of the school’s excellent Parents’ Association who funded the significant development of the IT infrastructure for pupils in the school.

All classes had the opportunity to develop their word processing and typing skills. Pupils in the senior classes became very adept at using Google Classroom as a platform for creating and sharing multimedia presentations.

Thanks to Laois Education and Support Centre the pupils in the school also had the opportunity to engage with the VexRobotics programme also.

A peer learning approach is adopted in the school when it comes to using technology in that the pupils in the senior classes familiarise themselves with new digital programmes and resources and in turn teach these to the younger classes.

In addition to daily Maths lessons, pupils across the school participated in a wide range of different maths activities including Maths Trails in the school environment, daily Maths challenges and puzzles and ‘Maths Eyes’ activities during ‘Maths Week’ in October.

Pupils participated in a wide variety of experiences for ‘Engineer’s Week’ in March.

Projects undertaken included constructing buildings from paper cups, making fully functioning vehicles from recycled materials and fashioning the Eiffel tower from lollipop sticks, to name but a few.

It was the school’s first year to apply for the Curious Minds Platinum award which is the highest level of STEM award.

Blue Star Flag

Coordinated by Principal, Mr Barry Whelan, Scoil Fionntáin Naofa was the only school in Laois to achieve a Curious Minds platinum award in the school year 2023-2024.

The school achieved their third consecutive Blue Star flag for exploring the European Union as part of their engagement in the ‘Blue Star’ programme.

The idea of the ‘Blue Star’ programme is to foster better understanding and knowledge of the European Union among primary school pupils in terms of how it affects the lives of Irish citizens.

The pupils in fifth and sixth class opened up meaningful lines of integration between different subject areas by exploring the European Union under four key headings namely History, Geography, Culture and Creativity while also making key links with key institutions within the European Union.

Laois TD Sean Fleming, Minister for State visited the school in May to give a presentation to the senior classes on his European portfolio as part of his work in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The school was also fortunate to be chosen to participate in the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ pilot programme on modern foreign languages funded by the Department of Education.

Participation in the pilot programme enabled pupils in the middle and senior classes to have a block of French lessons with Aurelie Lemoine, a native French speaker and teacher.

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