The Park Stewardship programme is a key element in GAP’s programme of environmental engagement with schools, and an integral part of our social regeneration work in Ballymun
The Park Stewardship Programme is considered one of the most important environmental educational programmes in local primary schools and is in high demand yearly.
The programme engages young people to support the long-term care, ownership and protection of local parks, while also connecting young people with the relevant authorities and agencies that are charged with the overall management of such spaces.
This kind of support is key to ensuring the long-term protection and integrity of these spaces. The active engagement of local young people in the care of parks leads to a deeper appreciation of their value and ensures that young people have a greater sense of ownership and responsibility.
An integral part of this programme is to organise visits to other public spaces so that students experience other habitats.
Sample outline of the Park Stewardship workshops:
WEEK 1 : Introductions & WEEK 2 : Trees
Our groups of park stewards took to Poppintree Park today for their first outdoor workshop. What better theme to start on than the first living things you will see in the park – Trees.
The group had three aims:
1 – To know the tree you must become the tree.
The group designed themselves into a giant tree with roots, trunk, branches, bark, and leaves.
2- Identify the trees.
Using tree keys and their investigation skills the group was able to identify every tree they came across.
3 – Feel the tree.
It’s easy to identify a tree with your eyes but what if you could only use your hands? This was a lesson learned with a lot of laughs as the students tried to identify the trees blindfolded.
WEEK 3 : Bug Hunt
The afternoon was filled with squeals and screams of excitement as the students found, caught and learned about bugs and where they are most likely to live.
Many bugs were discovered including wasps, spiders, ants, earwigs and even several frogs!
WEEK 4 : Mammal Track
Our Park Stewards from Virgin Mary Boys and St. Josephs have learnt about tracking native mammals this week, including squirrels and deer. Learning about mammal habitats, native species and footprints they were able to track and identify many of our native mammal species.
WEEK 5 : Energy and Climate Change (it rained!!)
How much energy does a hair dryer use ? The Park Steward students have been learning about energy. What sources of energy are renewable and nonrenewable, and how much energy various things use? Then the students discussed energy and its relation to climate change….
WEEK 6 : Litterpick
The litter pick is hard work, but also very rewarding as the group cleaned-up Coultry Park.
From different types of rubbish, such as plastic bottles, glass, and packaging they collected almost 40 kg!
WEEK 7 : Wild Tea
Students from St. Josephs ventured into the Virgin Mary Garden this week. They tasted various herbs and even made their own wild tea to drink.
Students from Virgin Mary Boys School, planted daffodil bulbs, which will bloom during the spring and decorate the community garden!
WEEK 8 : Bull Island
All our Park Stewards took to the Bull Island nature reserve to put what they have learned about biodiversity and wildlife to the test.
The donned their binoculars and used all the stealth they could muster to explore the islands amazing sand dunes. Keeping quiet is an important part of spotting wildlife and it paid off….
All in a day’s work for a GAP park steward!
WEEK 9 : Tree Planting
This week boys from Virgin Mary school planted 2 oaks in their school ground. Oak is native to Ireland and can support up to 284 insect species! Once they have planted a tree, they made a pledge that they will look after those trees by checking regularly and coming back to water it if the weather is dry.
The Park Stewards of St Joseph’s National School took a stroll up to Poppintree Park with 2 rowan trees in hand.
Their aim was to make sure they don’t go back to school until they have been planted. If you keep your eyes out while walking the park you may notice a small tree beside a few bigger ones where the paths diverge.
WEEK 10 : Graduation
Our park stewards in training have graduated to fully-fledged GAP Park Stewards.
They worked very hard to reach the level of park understanding and protection that they did. We wish them all the best in the future and we have no doubt that the local parks are now safer in their hands!