October 28, 2004

Irish Times article on CaSE schools science and citizenship project

Internet connects along the Border

[ article in the Irish Times Science Today – 28 October 2004 ]

The Internet is providing a fresh point of connection for 400 students on both sides of the Border. An innovative EU-funded programme is teaching them both science and citizenship but also attempting to break down barriers, writes Dick Ahlstrom

The Centre for Cross Border Studies initiated and organises the Citizenship and Science Exchange (CaSE) programme which began in autumn 2003, explains the centre’s director, Andy Pollak. “Our aim is to get kids to work together across the Border on science,” he says.

The centre fosters all forms of cross-Border co-operation. It co-ordinates projects with partners Queen’s University Belfast and Dublin City University. CaSE grew out of this. “I had been talking to people at DCU about this and they were interested,” Pollock says. The centre put together a proposal for funding and received support from the EU Peace and Reconciliation programme.

This initial pilot, which Pollak hopes to expand, should the funding be found, currently involves 400 12- to 14-year-olds from 16 secondary schools from North and South. Partners include the centre, DCU and the Southern and Western Education and Library Boards in the North.

The basic idea is the students work within their own schools on projects linked to three modules, “Environmental Perspectives”, “Food and Nutrition” and “Energy”. This project work is then placed on a shared website and the students begin e-based discussions and debates on their work.

“A lot of this is done on-line,” says Pollak. “The kids really enjoy working on the Internet.” It also closely matches both the science and citizenship curriculums in both jurisdictions in order to remain highly relevant for teachers, students and parents, he adds. The citizenship material relates to Civic, Social and Political Education in the Republic, and Local and Global Citizenship in the North.

“It is geared to the science and citizenship curriculums in both jurisdictions,” he says. “We were very careful it wasn’t putting anything extra into these curriculums.”

A key to the success of the project is developing project material for the teachers and then providing additional training for them in its use. The teachers involved met for a training session last Friday in the Western Education and Library Board’s technology education centre in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

The environmental module will be delivered during winter of this year with the next two coming over academic year 2004-5. The environmental module contains background information, experiments, activities, worksheets and other resources for science and citizenship classes. It touches for example on air pollution, water pollution and waste management. Teachers, the CaSE team and other experts in science and citizenship, mediate the students’ online dialogue, Pollak says.

“We think this is a very exciting project. It is cross-discipline and cross-jurisdiction,” he says. “This is very innovative. Nothing like this has been done on the island of Ireland before.”

The question is will the project continue beyond its planned two and a half years. He hopes that it will and that it will expand beyond the 16 schools now involved.

In the Republic these include: Beaufort College, Navan; Beech Hill College, Monaghan; De La Salle College, Dundalk; St Macartan’s College, Monaghan; St Mary’s College, Dundalk; St Oliver’s Community College, Drogheda; and St Vincent’s Secondary School, Dundalk.

The schools in the North are: Banbridge Academy, Banbridge; Drumglass High School, Dungannon; Fivemiletown High School, Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone; Kilkeel High School, Kilkeel; Lismore Comprehensive School, Craigavon; Lurgan Junior High School, Lurgan; St Aidan’s High School, Derrylin, Co Fermanagh; St Mary’s High School, Newry; and St Patrick’s College, Banbridge.

© The Irish Times

See the press release and further details on the CaSE project.