Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A STRUCTURE made from natural, recycled materials designed to accommodate insects and birds has just scooped a major national award for a group of dedicated students from Scoil Chonglais, Baltinglass.

The so-called B&B for birds and bugs that features bamboo shoots for hibernating bees or cosy beds of straw that spiders particularly like was the project that earned the students the overall senior prize in this year’s ECO UNESCO Young Environmentalists Award as well as the top prize in the biodiversity category.

Students from Scoil Chonglais, Baltinglass scooped the overall first prize in the senior category in this year's ECO UNESCO competition for their B&B for birds and bugs. The team included back row (l/r) Amy Jackson and Rebecca Lawlor, (middle) Hannah Kehoe, Will Byrne, Jane Keogh, Ciara Hanley and Sumer Alers (front) Gwen Jackson, Róisín Connolly and Merlin F James

Students from Scoil Chonglais, Baltinglass scooped the overall first prize in the senior category in this year’s ECO UNESCO competition for their B&B for birds and bugs. The team included back row (l/r) Amy Jackson and Rebecca Lawlor, (middle) Hannah Kehoe, Will Byrne, Jane Keogh, Ciara Hanley and Sumer Alers (front) Gwen Jackson, Róisín Connolly and Merlin F James

“We were stunned when we heard our names called out. We just sat there looking at each other to see if we heard right! This is a really tough competition to win,” a delighted Gwen Jackson, project leader, told The Nationalist about the awards night that took place in The Mansion House, Dublin.

The idea for the B&B came about after the students discovered that the insect and bird populations had fallen in the local area. Months of quantitative studies and intense research followed as the team of ten people buckled down and developed a passion for the environment.

“Right from the off, we knew that we wanted to enter the competition because we wanted to raise awareness about the issue. There was a lot … a lot of research involved and we got really interested in it,” Gwen continued.

The group used the local Tearmann Community Gardens for the site of their elaborate hotel, which attracted attention not only from the critters who flocked there but from local gardening enthusiasts, too. They also made bird boxes from cedar wood to further accommodate the feathered friends and a beautiful, scaled model of the B&B for the competition final. Their research was also scrutinised by a panel of experts along the judging process but the group finally made it to the top of the national awards.

The team would like to thank Sr Mary Carmody and staff in the community gardens for their co-operation. They’d especially like to thank their biology teacher, Dorothy Fox, who mentored them, and their lab assistant, Victoria Seledvasky, for all the help and guidance over the past nine months.

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By Elizabeth Lee
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