School river study project nets environmental award

Noel Thompson helps to present Paula Matthews (Fairview Primary) and Neil McAllister (Fairview Primary) with their award. They were joined by a representative from sponsors Michelin; Newtownabbey Borough Council's Lindsay Matthews, who also worked on the project, and Golda Burrows from Sustainable Ireland. INNT 38-569 CON
Noel Thompson helps to present Paula Matthews (Fairview Primary) and Neil McAllister (Fairview Primary) with their award. They were joined by a representative from sponsors Michelin; Newtownabbey Borough Council's Lindsay Matthews, who also worked on the project, and Golda Burrows from Sustainable Ireland. INNT 38-569 CON

An annual river study project developed by Fairview Primary School and Newtownabbey Borough Council has landed a top environmental honour.

The study at Six Mile Water Park was named Most Inspiring Environmental Project by a Young Person/Persons in the Sustainable Ireland Awards 2012 on 12 September at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

Entrants for the award must demonstrate how they raised awareness and encouraged sustainability and environmental responsibility among young people in an inspiring way.

The project, which was originally developed as a classroom activity, involves primary seven pupils from Fairview PS.

Run by their enthusiastic World Around Us co-ordinator and P7 teacher, Neil McAllister, and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Biodiversity Officer, Lindsay Matthews, the project soon moved outdoors after recognising that the proximity of the Six Mile Water was a wasted resource.

The first P7 River Study Field Trip was held in 2008 and involved the identification of channel features such as erosion and deposition while the investigation of flow speed, channel width and depth allowed the children to get their feet wet.

The pupils also spotted and recorded a range of species while on the river including a resident heron.

Whilst the Council’s biodiversity officer led the first field trip, the sustainability of future trips had to be ensured.

Teachers from the Ballyclare school were encouraged to get involved and include important elements of the curriculum so that they could take the lead in future years.

Ms Matthews said: “The benefits of this project are enormous; whilst it contributes towards the pupils’ P7 project, the lessons learnt will also have knock-on effects for the local area and environment.

“As the children get to see the wildlife which relies on this habitat and the damage which can occur due to littering or carelessness, their sense of responsibility for the local environment increases.

“We at the council have also learnt a few things about improved habitat management of the river and assisting with school groups, both of which will benefit the wider community.”

Mayor Victor Robinson said: “With the benefits that the project brings to the community, it is a deserving winner of the award and both the council and Fairview Primary School should be extremely proud of their achievement.”

The River Study is held in May each year and all schools in the area are welcome to get involved. To find out more contact Lindsay Matthews on 028 90340069 or email lmatthews@newtownabbey.gov.uk.