My brother Jeevan and I have recently been helping to teach school children about the importance of hedgerow trees to wildlife, and in particular the humble yet crucial and fascinating Hawthorn tree…
After reading a book by Jenny Ogden, explaining how to carry out wildlife interviews with animals – played by members of a group – we began to think how wonderful it would be share the hawthorn idea, which is an award ceremony in which several animals tell you why they need hawthorn and vote for it as the ‘Tree of the Year’.
To start with, we needed to be fully equipped, so we adapted the script to make it more relevant to Ireland, and spent our spare time this summer making papier mache animals. Some were models and some masks, and some that were not possible to make we bought, and by the beginning of autumn we were ready to begin.
The problem was, how could we get a big enough group together? Luckily some good friends of ours came to the rescue, the wonderful folk of An Gáirdín, who loved our idea and set to work to make it happen. School groups often come to An Gáirdín (an organic garden and ecology centre in the middle of Portumna) to learn about nature, and when the next group arrived, we put our plan into action.
First the children were shown a hawthorn tree in the hedge at An Gáirdín, and we told them about how hawthorn is the fairy tree in Ireland and important to our culture, and then we came back inside and gave each child a prop. They were each a character, either an animal (insect, bird or mammal) or human who needs or benefits from hawthorn, and after explaining and practising the roles we were ready to go!
They enjoyed speaking and acting the roles, the teachers were enthusiastic and I think they all learned something that day. I was very glad and it was worth the effort!
We actually visited the next school we worked with; St Brendans Boy’s National School in Loughrea. They were very happy to receive us, and the children there partook very well… and were most enthusiastic about eating the haws (berries of the hawthorn tree)!
We also went to St. Brendan’s National School, Duniry, and taught children of 4th, 5th and 6th classes, all who were interested and we were so happy to teach them.
All in all, it has been a wonderful experience, and each child was fascinated and was a joy to teach. We are hoping to do the same in more schools and groups in the future. So, if you are a teacher or a community group around East Galway or a neighbouring county, who would like to experience the role-play, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are available in spring when the May blossom is out!