An Cluainín (The Little Meadow) Biodiversity Project

The aims of An Cluainín (The Little Meadow) Project are:

  • To develop a meadow for native Irish flora and fauna which includes a pocket forest and water features on the grounds of Loreto College, Crumlin Road. In doing so we hope to encourage and increase the biodiversity within our school grounds and local vicinity while also having a small, but significant impact on carbon capture.
  • To provide numerous, meaningful learning opportunities for students as a result of direct involvement in planning and undertaking actions and for the wider school community in time to come. The project is being planned and overseen by a group of Transition Year students as part of their Leadership Project with Trinity College Access Programme with the guidance of Mr Michael Larkin and Mr Matthew Whelan. JCSP students are also contributing to this project as part of their programme.
  • Forge closer relationships with other stakeholders in our school and wider community. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Bloomin Crumlin / Crumlin Clean-up. We received help and donations from Loreto Sisters, Dublin City Council, Trees of the Land, Crann, and Cloud Pickers (a local Coffee company),

Our Motivation

In Loreto College Crumlin, we have a long tradition of promoting and nurturing Many Kinds of Excellence in the classroom and beyond the walls of the school building – Utilising sports facilities in the community, rowing on the Liffey, adventure trips to Delphi, History tours to every corner of the county, Science and Geography field trips to Glendalough and Belfast, Business trips to London, to name just a few.

As educators we value learning experiences that both compliment and enhance the recognised curriculum. We constantly seek out opportunities to bring learning to life and in doing so help students to experience as many different aspects of their subjects and so much more. We, as a community, fully appreciate how truly blessed we are to have such amazing grounds that provide a safe space and environment for students to relax and unwind during break times and to succeed and express themselves in numerous sporting endeavours. In undertaking this project we aim to make a positive changes to our school environment, extended community, and the planet by creating a learning space on a small part of our wonderful grounds that provides a sanctuary for wildlife to bloom and flourishing minds to grow.

Our Story

Situated in the immediate outskirts of Dublin City centre, green space is scarce, but wildlife still exists. In the Spring / Summer of 2020, as we all came to terms with a new reality of life with Covid-19 and limited our activities and movements, many stories made national and international headlines about nature re-establishing itself and making its presence known in the absence of human activity. This was also the case in Loreto Crumlin where we recognised the opportunity for our students to (re)connect with nature. Our Transition Year students, working in collaboration with Trinity College Access Programme, chose a biodiversity related project as the focus of their student leadership pillar.

Phase 1- Make a Plan and LET IT GROW.

This was the easiest phase. All we had to do was not cut the grass and let it grow. This happened between March 2020- February 2021

Lacking the expertise in planning a project of this nature we reached out to several experts in the field of zoology and horticulture. Collie Ennis (Zoology research fellow TCD) and the local Bloomin Crumlin group provided us with fantastic guidance in the planning of this project, particularly the establishment of a pocket forest. They directed our students towards online resources and made practical suggestions that proved to be invaluable. The process employed for to establish our pocket forest was the Miyawaki Methodology.

Information on the Miyawaki Methodology can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5jtg2q1gnU

Collie Ennis was able to advise as to how and where ponds should be created and Alan McGovern, our school caretaker, marked out and cut the boundary for our meadow. TY students sourced seed bombs made up of native Irish flowers and we were ready to go!

Phase 2- Dig the trenches and mark out the boundaries

In February 2021 we were joined by Sr Anne Dwyer and Sr Veronica Donoghue IBVM, members of Crumlin Clean-up (Laura Casanellas, Trevor Clowry, Michelle Hardiman ) members of our Transition Year Trinity College Access Leadership group, Mr Michael Larkin, Parents and past pupils. We dug the trenches, lined them with branches that will decompose, and marked out the area with cardboard to kill off grass and weeds which would otherwise compete with the trees for nutrients in the soil.

Phase 3 – Prep, Plant and Seed

A week later we received a delivery of 50 Native Irish baby trees (they were more like twigs). The species were Hawthorn, Alder, Pine, Birch and Hazel. We also received 10 Hessian sacks full of coffee chaff from local Coffee Roasting company Cloud Picker and cardboard from a number of local businesses. Our volunteers prepared the area by digging holes in which the trees were planted, placing more cardboard around each tree and covering the entire area with coffee chaff. This was followed by watering, more cardboard and hessian sacks and a layer of mulch. More watering followed this and the area was really taking shape.

Other students planted seed-bombs around the meadow.

Phase 4 – Dig the ponds, line the ponds and create a path.

The following week the liners for the pond arrived so it was pickaxes and shovels at the ready once again. Once the areas had been measured and dug out a combination of TY and JCSP students went about securing the lining in trenches, finding rocks, and filling the ponds with water. Collie and Ms Taylor (SNA) later provided us with some oxidising plants. Alan cut a path through the meadow and trees were watered again.

Phase 5Protection and Signage

The final stage of hard graft included spreading more mulch, placing supportive tree protectors around each tree, ordering and posting signage to warn any visitors to the area to stay away from the ponds.

Phase 6 – LET IT GROW!

Serving its purpose already

To date, we have seen fantastic growth on the meadow. The pocket forest is showing signs of life with many green shoots and is attracting a wide variety of insects, birds and even the resident foxes! The ponds have been populated with oxygenating plants and as Spring turns to Summer we hope to attract all sorts flora and fauna to the meadow.

As an educational resource the meadow is proving to be a huge success. The students involved in the planning and creation of the features have learnt so much from the experience. Many of the students involved had never dug a hole or planted a tree, some don’t have gardens at home- how or why would they?

Science classes have conducted field studies, students from our primary school have visited on nature walks with sketch pads, and many staff students and resident Loreto sisters have enjoyed a leisurely stroll around and through the meadow.

We look forward to watching this project flourish in the weeks, months and years to come.

Thanks to:

Bloomin Crumlin, Crumlin Clean-up – especially Laura, Trevor and Michelle. Collie Ennis (TCD)

Sr Mary Dwyer Sr Veronica O’ Donoghue (IBVM)

Alan McGovern our brilliant caretaker. Mr Larkin. Ms Taylor. Ms Young.

Trees of the land. Crann.

Cloud Pickers Coffee (D12).Wolfe Cycles (D12) and BikesOrBicycles (D8).