Irish American Partnership supports Irish push to enhance science education

Over the past 10 years Boston’s Irish American Partnership has sent more than $800,000 to support Ireland’s emphasis on science education for its young people who, 30 to 50 years from now, will be guiding the country’s future.

A strong educational system that produces first class scientists, serious thinkers, and aggressive businessmen and women will help to insure Ireland’s place in our competitive changing world.

The Partnership’s nationwide base of donors is providing ongoing funding for science teaching research, teacher training, and science- teaching materials.

Working with Ireland’s Department of Education and its leading teaching colleges, St. Patrick’s in Dublin and Mary Immaculate in Limerick, the Partnership has seen its support have an impact on some 500 primary schools and their teaching staffs.

In searching for the most efficient way to enhance primary school science learning, the Partnership began working with one of the oldest philanthropic organizations in Ireland, the famed Royal Dublin Society (RDS).

The RDS aims to help Ireland thrive economically and culturally by acting as a catalyst to help coming generations fulfill their potential, and to be a philanthropic society supported by commercial activities and strategic partnerships.

The RDS initiated a program of Primary School Science Fairs beginning three years ago in Dublin and this year in Limerick. The fairs have been set up to encourage and facilitate long-term interest, understanding, knowledge, and skill sets in science-related subjects in primary school children. The program includes the teachers and the families of the students.

The Irish American Partnership and its donors have been supportive since the program began and this January they took a major funding role in initiating the RDS Primary School Science Fair in Limerick. Over the past three years the Partnership has sent over $78,000 to support the fairs.

This year alone the fairs in Dublin and Limerick connected with 180 schools in 27 counties in the North and South, 5,000 students, 270 teachers, and 28,000 visitors as they were being held. Approximately 13,000 parents travelled to Dublin and Limerick to be with their children.

Minister of Education Jan Sullivan, who attended the fairs, was highly complementary.

In order to participate, each school submits a proposal that describes the projects the students (aged 7-12) will be working on. Both locations were oversubscribed. Students were expected to “gain experience, practice scientific skills, including questioning, observing, predicting, investigating, experimenting, estimating, measuring, analyzing, interpreting data recording, and communicating.”

Quotes from teachers were entirely favorable:
“We now work much better in class and noticed the quieter students are now more eager and confident in speaking out,” said a 4th class teacher at St. Conaires NS, Tullyarraga, Co. Clare.

“Greater confidence and self-esteem as a whole. Great sense of pride in their achievement and a desire to get more involved in science in a fun and practical way,” added a 5th class teacher at Brierhill NS, Brierhill, Co. Galway.

“I would like to thank you sincerely for giving us the opportunity. On the bus on the way home the students were full of chat about how they never knew science could be so fun and interesting. One student described her experience as the best day of her life. It is fantastic to see primary school children being given the opportunity to do something so unique, educational yet fun at the same time,” said a 5th class teacher from Coosan NS, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.

The RDS staff responsible for all of this are very professional, extremely hard working, and a pleasure to work with. Their plans are well ordered, careful, and exciting at the same time. They would like to expand the Limerick fair to 120 schools, create a new fair to make a total of three in 2017, and prepare to eventually manage four primary school fairs, one in each of Ireland’s four provinces by 2020. These ambitious goals would then serve 12,000 students and 780 teachers each year.

With respect to the fairs, RDS Chief Executive Michael Duffy issued the following statement: “The value of The Irish American Partnership to the RDS Primary Science Fair has been very important. We have been building and developing the Fair for a number of years, extending its reach and measuring its success. It was ready for expansion and the IAP assistance was of great importance to making that happen. We are also delighted to be working with an organization that shares our core aim of helping the next generation realize its potential.”