Leitrim County Council are delighted to share stories from residents around the County who are putting their best feet forward to lead healthier lives. Our Environment Education Officer works in partnership with An Taisce’s Green-Schools to promote active travel to benefit all communities in the County.
Green-Schools families in County Leitrim enjoyed walking to school in the lead up to Valentine’s Day to help remind us all of the importance of including regular active travel in daily journeys. Walking, cycling and using public transport are ways to travel actively to benefit health, well being and local communities. As the school journey is made five days a week, each week during term time it is an ideal opportunity to incorporate health promoting exercise into regular routine journeys. Connecting the dots with Valentine’s Day provided teachers throughout the county with an opportunity to promote walking for a happy and healthy heart.
Green-Schools Travel Education Officer Imelda Ryan-Jones joined Fatima NS in Cloone on 11th Feb for their Green-Schools Love Your Heart event. The school had a huge turnout of families walking together and lots of children wore bright coloured high visibility jackets to highlight their presence to drivers. “The more of us who get out walking and cycling the safer roads are for everyone” said Imelda “as more drivers will expect to meet pedestrians and cyclists and thus drive accordingly. The real shift in driver behaviour will come about when even more drivers themselves have experience of walking or cycling on roads, as those experiences will likely influence them to lower their driving speeds when sharing the road with walkers and cyclists. Of course the added bonus is that walking more often definitely benefits our hearts AND gives us the feel good factor.”
Fatima NS are working towards their Green Flag for Travel. Principal Threasa Moran said “When we learned that academic research has proven children who walk all or part of the way to school benefit enormously in terms of their education, as their brains are alert and ready to learn when they get into class, this inspired us to promote morning walks together with parents when possible.”
“Teachers are encouraging families to consider the connection between increased active travel and healthy living.” said Imelda “They are also promoting walking amongst families so that children learn essential road skills whilst out walking with parents, which in turn leads to safer independent mobility when children want to go out with their friends when they are older. The good travel habits that children learn from their parents now will lead them to make smarter choices as adults.”
Ms Murphy, who teaches 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and who leads the Green-Schools programme in Fatima NS said “As the children who travel to school by bus already play a positive role in helping our environment we wanted to include them in the Love Your Heart event. We arranged with the parents and bus drivers to drop the children at park and stride locations and teachers walked them to school from there. It worked very well and the children were very pleased.”
The School now hope that as the children enjoyed it so much that more parents will walk with their children more often to school by using either of the two designated park & stride locations.
During the Autumn term a Green-Schools walkability audit was carried out and two park & stride location were identified by the Green-Schools Committee on either side of the school to enable parents to park and then walk the remainder of the journey to school with their children.
Well done to all schools county wide who are helping to promote the positive benefits of increased active travel amongst their school and wider communities.
Two pupils walking to school with their Gran on Love Your Heart morning
Some of the pupils meeting up for the Walking Bus to Fatima NS on Love Your Heart Morning 11th Feb, 2015
Walking to school with happy hearts in Cloone Co Leitrim
Walking Bus from the Church Park & Stride Location
Crossing the Road safely with teacher
Teachers & pupils from St Fatima NS in Cloone with Imelda Ryan-Jones of An Taisce
Green-Schools (known internationally as Eco-Schools), is an international environmental management education programme, environmental management system and award scheme that promotes and acknowledges long-term, whole-school action for the environment, and is operating in over 50 countries around the world including; almost all EU member states, Africa, South America, Oceania and Asia. Green-Schools is an initiative of FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education).
The programme is coordinated in Ireland by An Taisce, operated in partnership with Local Authorities and is supported by the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, National Transport Authority, NPWS, Irish Water and Trócaire. The programme is sponsored by the Wrigley Company Limited.
An Taisce’s Green-Schools Programme reached a record level during the last school year with over 90% of schools in Ireland, equivalent to 800,000 students and teachers, participating in the programme.
Participating primary, secondary and special schools directly saved in excess of €8m in waste, energy, water and transport fuel costs during the last school year.
To date over 67% of schools in the country have been awarded the internationally recognised Green Flag by An Taisce and 20% are in the process of achieving their first Green Flag, which typically takes around two years.
The Green-Schools programme is based on a seven-step environmental management system and continual improvement process which is very student led and also involves the wider community. Green-Schools is a themed programme with schools initially working on the themes of Litter and Waste and then moving onto themes such as Energy, Water and School Travel. Schools that successfully implemented the programme are awarded the Green Flag. The award must be renewed every two years.
Visit www.greenschoolsireland.org for more information.