St. Brid’s Special National School, Castlebar, Co. Mayo caters for children with severe/profound and moderate learning difficulties and children with autism. Verbal communication between staff and pupils is enhanced by use of the LÁMH sign language. There is very little understanding of the written word and symbolic representations, therefore the staff avoid providing paper work and charts and focus instead on the practical work done by the children with photographs to illustrate.
The Green-Schools committee was established in September 2003, comprising the school secretary, two teachers, one classroom assistant (who is also the co-ordinator), and one pupil aged 13. This pupil already had a great interest in tidying up and organizing waste collection. Any reports, minutes of meetings and paper work are written up by staff, while pupils are the main operators in all practical work.
The Environmental review was carried out by the committee. Prior to starting the programme, St. Brid’s had no provision for recycling. Two large wheelie bins were being sent to landfill per week. These bins were usually over-flowing. There was no composting in operation. The committee identified that the school did not have a litter problem. The main aim therefore of the school was to greatly reduce the waste going to landfill by reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting.
Colour coded crates were purchased for collection of recyclables in each classroom. Recyclables are sorted into three different crates:
The school also obtained secondhand cardboard cylindrical bins, which were brightly painted by the children. These bins are used to transport the recyclables to Derrinumera Recycling Facility.
The children pasted a label (e.g. HDPE, PET bottles, glass, cartons, etc.) on the front of each of these bins and a picture of what should be put in each bin. It was found that if these cardboard bins were prominently displayed in the school’s main hall, the children showed a great interest and, with the help of the committee, were eventually able to sort recyclables into the appropriate cardboard bins from the classroom crates. The job of sorting the contents of crates into cardboard bins in the hall rotates from one child to another.
The cardboard bins and crates are the school’s method of displaying and monitoring progress being made. This very visual and hands-on approach is used rather than charts, posters, and numbers, which would have very little meaning for the children.
Four pupils are involved in taking recyclables in a bus to Derrinumera Recycling Facility. It is the focal point of their week. It was decided by the committee to open this up to other children to share in the experience, but this is being done slowly. The pupils know the route to the facility and give their driver directions. The pupils have great pride and self esteem in their responsibilities, loading the bus each Friday with recyclables and identifying (with staff guidance) what items go where at the recycling facility.