From September through to May this season, Boyne Valley Activities have found themselves spending as much time in the classroom as on the water! What started as a casual conversation about biodiversity for kids with a local teacher from St Marys School in Trim, has turned into a full River Biodiversity for Kids Programme as part of the Green Schools Initiative. We have partnered with our local authority Meath County Council to connect the schools in our area with the river. We also cooperate with state bodies and local community groups such as Trim Tidy Towns. We want to focus more attention on this amenity that stretches 113km through 3 counties carrying an abundance of Wildlife and Heritage as it goes.
We explain how local companies like our own make a living on the river. We let them know the Boyne is a designated SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and a habitat for Otter, Salmon, River Lamprey and a SPA (Special Protection Area) for Kingfisher. Like a lot of people, they are surprised by the amount of protection that a river gets, but it makes total sense to them. We go through the history of the river – how the locals used it to create employment. We explain the power of water, how it can be dammed and steered into headraces to turn waterwheels and how they were used during the Industrial Revolution to grind plants into food. We explain how the mills are mostly gone now, but the weir walls remain – we should know as we use them to raft over!! We discuss how the weirs negatively effected the river islands and salmon spawning beds by changing the build up of silt in the river.
Rafting over the Weirs
The pupils often look disheartened to hear that salmon can make it (the lucky one’s) from the Boyne across the Irish Sea, off up to Greenland, back around and up the Boyne (approx. 8 year cycle) – and then can’t find clean pebble to spawn on!! But then they hear of the fantastic work that is currently being carried out by Inland Fisheries and the OPW to reinstate the Boyne’s shoal pools and spawning beds and how we are well on the way to reversing the damage done.
Our otter surveys always gets the kids even more engaged. They love to tell us of their own sightings of these wonderful creatures in their area. They prefer the Otter detail to the Lamprey detail (although if we showed them the teeth of the Lamprey we would never get them down to the river). It is great to see how engaged and interested the kids are about biodiversity. They are hugely informed already and just love the topic. Some schools have “Hedgehog Hotels” and they recycle plastic bottles into bird feeders!! Every presentation I deliver I genuinely learn something from the class. The questions are truly inspiring to the point that I have really had to dig deep to find the answer!!
Mustelidae Lutrinae, or Ollie as we call him
In a few short months it is clear to me that this is the way forward in promoting Biodiversity. Many adults I speak to barely even know what the word means nowadays. If they sat in with these National School classes and listened to these pupils they would be hugely inspired. Just like I was.
If you are interested in having one of our Biodiversity for Kids presentations in your school, just give us a shout on 086 837 2547 and we will gladly see how we can work together.