Tuesday, 12th April 2022: Mary Immaculate College celebrate #treeweek2022 by planting 100 native trees

LEAF Ireland planted almost 100 native trees with students and staff from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Planting a Choill Bheag on the grounds of Mary Immaculate College will create a small, dense native woodland habitat for biodiversity and an educational and recreational resource for the whole college community to enjoy.

As part of the Choill Bheag project student teachers attended Forest-Based Workshops in Coillte’s Curragh Chase Forest Park in 2018 and 2020, where they were shown a variety of different ways that the outdoors could be used to educate children in all curricular areas.

This woodland habitat will provide an on-site educational and recreational resource for the whole college community, enabling students to participate in Citizen Science, Woodland Skills, Nature Connection and Wellbeing.  It also links with the Green-Campus Programme, Global Goals, and Global Action Days, such as National Tree Day, National Tree Week, Biodiversity Day, Climate Action Week and other environmental programmesMost importantly, the student teachers will be shown how to use this outdoor space to teach many other subjects, such as Gaeilge, Geography, History and Art, transforming the Choill Bheag into a Living Classroom.

An Choill Bheag is a long-term educational programme. It is based on practical sustainable tree planting and long-term woodland and eco-system education, management, and practical skills.  It has a strong emphasis on creating the woodland and hedgerow habitats that are then studied and managed as part of a longer-term educational initiative.

An Choill Bheag is a long-term educational programme, an initiative of LEAF Ireland and the Environmental Education Unit (EEU) of An Taisce.  The Mary I. project is funded by JSG Memorial Foundation and delivered by the staff  of LEAF Ireland.

According to Dr Anne Dolan, lecturer at Mary I.: “Student teachers will have an opportunity to learn about native Irish Trees through planting, observation, and continued engagement with An Choill Bheag. As primary teachers, they will be well equipped to teach children about the joy and wonder of Irish Trees. Mary Immaculate College is committed to education for sustainability. An Choill Bheag is an important climate action for the college, and it also serves as a resource for teaching about the importance of biodiversity. We are hopeful that partnership with LEAF Ireland will develop as our Choill Bheag becomes an important educational resource for students and staff.

Rachel Geary from LEAF Ireland said: LEAF Ireland has been working in partnership with Mary Immaculate College for over 4 years.  The culmination of this work has resulted in the institution being the first third-level college with a Choill Bheag.

In an Choill Bheag, we want to make it possible for people to spend time in nature and bring the classroom outdoors. Through our partnership with Mary Immaculate College, we want to raise awareness of the benefits of learning outside by creating small woodland and hedgerow habitats and encourage more third-level institutions to plant an Choill Bheag on their grounds”.

Twelve small woodlands have been planted in eleven schools and one college across the country between November 2021 and March 2022.