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Ireland - European Action for the Environment (EAE)

1996, by John Medlycott

The European Action for the Environment Project involves a group of 28 schools in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic, which agreed to co-operate together in an environmental-education network. The project was enabled at the start with the help of a grant from the Commission of the European Union and it has also received financial support from the Government Departments of Education in Dublin and Belfast, and from Co-operation North.

All the schools have been involved in exchanges since September 1990. They are arranged in groups of four, involving at least one from each community — Protestant and Catholic — in Northern Ireland, and two from the Republic. The hope is that cross-community and cross-border understanding will be encouraged through activities relating to the environment, while not in any way marginalising the environmental content of the program. In developing the program of exchanges, teachers from participating schools meet initially to plan projected work and the details of transport and accommodations. Two exchanges that involve at least two nights away on each side of the border then take place. The environmental activities of the groups have been very varied.

During the past year, the following activities were undertaken:
- A planning and review seminar for the teachers was held in September. During this the environmental activities for the year were planned, and academic and social relationships between teachers from different parts of Ireland and from many different types of school were cemented.
- Twelve exchange visits, six in Northern Ireland and six in the Republic of Ireland were held between groups of schools. These were all of at least three-day duration, and in some cases more. During these exchanges, a variety of environmental projects involving studies that covered the two jurisdictions were carried out.
- An exhibition of completed work was held in April. This was attended by teachers and pupils from all participating schools, and by representatives from the worlds of education and environmental concern in both parts of Ireland.
- A network bulletin, "Environmental News", was published. This served to link members of the network and inform each school group of the activities of the others.

The principal outcomes of the project have been the following:
- it has broadened the horizons of teachers and students;
- it has fostered co-operation and teamwork;
- genuine friendships have been established;
- it has improved self-confidence of teachers and students;
- it has made them more aware of the complexity of environmental questions.

A number of pupils in each school were asked for their views. These reflected a growing awareness and understanding and for some a deeper commitment. Most importantly, their studies had not left them feeling powerless; on the contrary they were provided with the confidence that they could do something to affect matters. In terms of relationships they were universally positive about the outcomes; working together in the environment had been an experience of considerable value.

KEY WORDS: Environmental Education; School; Culture.
AUTHOR: John Medlycott Coordinator European Action for the Environment Program, CDVEC Curriculum Development Unit, Sundrive Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12, Ireland.