Biodiversity STREAMS Garden and SCIENTIX 4 Outdoor learning at Dublin West Education Centre
“Modern life is forever moving, unrelenting in its eagerness to push us forward onto the next thing and the next thing, and the thing after that. And so our minds are just as busy. Too infrequently do we stop and enjoy the stillness of a place. Shinrin Yoku (also known as Forest Bathing) brings us back to nature. It takes us out of our busy lives and heals us - reconnecting us with our environments and ourselves”, (Ó Murchú, 2019, Mumbai , India).
The Phases in the evolution of our STEAM/STREAMS Biodiversity Garden◦
Phase 1 : 2020-2021 Throughout the entire project, teachers and students will creatively design, build, explore and learn with, about and through the use of 21 Century STEAM technologies, while at the same time benefiting in a more holistic, mindful and cohesive manner from practical, empathetic and sustainable hands-on activities with ‘Nature Based Solutions Education, Sustainability and Bio-Diversity’, enhanced by STEAM activities.
◦Phases, 1 and 2 : 2021-2022 These phases would collaboratively build and develop universal and rounded competencies around and beyond STEAM towards STREAMS education - knowledge, skills, creativity and attitudes - to be proactive environmental citizens in an ever changing world, in which climate awareness, change and Digital and Green technologies and sustainability are part and parcel of the way we live today.
Our Celtic STREAMS Garden design
A Celtic-inspired “STREAMS” garden for exploring biodiversity and incorporating emerging technologies in sustainable ways. A large, circular, paved area of cobbled grey stone. Black, curved benches made from recycled plastic arranged around the edges. A central circular grass area featuring a Celtic Trinity Knot of paving/solar stones set in grass. In the centre an Ogham stone engraved by the children to connect with their ancient traditions. Surrounding the paved area a shallow hill-like mound hugging the seating area and covered in grass. A grounded, comfortable seating area but not enclosed. Each area will have incorporated XR, AI, and sustainable STE(A)MS projects to inspire innovative initiatives from local schools. The schools 'adopt' the Garden each term and transform the 'landscape' to be STREAMS alive! There will be vertical garden features and microbit programmes also to explore soil degradation and hydroponics.
Moving out from the seating circle there will be a raised bed area with wild flowers and herbs following the circular curve created by the seating area and mirroring the curve of the education centre. This will feature five recycled plastic raised beds of various heights to inclusively suit accessibility, creating a sensory garden with appropriate planting.
To blend these areas into the existing garden, some light understory tree planting amongst the lime trees to create a mini Irish woodland focusing on smaller species such as holly, rowan and hawthorn. Sprinkled throughout the garden will be various biodiversity features such as a small frog pond, log piles, bird feeders, bird nest boxes and solitary bee homes.
Our Irish ancestors had huge respect for nature, a wonderful relationship with trees and were greatly inspired by the cycle of life and seasons. Our SCIENTIX Celtic garden will instil this sense of respect with the visitor. We will further develop the Digital and Green tree and planting topics with a digital, QR-code, AR based tree trail around the garden and DWEC campus. There is also the potential to explore our ancestor’s appreciation of trees using further augmented reality, and AI storytelling app linked to ogham stones placed around the garden and the campus.
The Hive for Continuous Professional Development
The “Hive” will be an exciting, innovative, outdoor STREAMS exploration laboratory. Just like any beehive, it will be deeply connected to its surrounding landscape and be a hotspot of collaboration.
It will act as a conservation area for local pollinators, specifically bees, but also as an exemplar for all schools in Ireland on how to look after bees in their own local area. The centrepiece will be an ambitious “living wall” made entirely of solitary bee homes – a very important, harmless but overlooked wild bee (made from recycled gabion steel cages and wooden logs). The seating area will be hexagonal shaped (inspired by the bee’s love of all things 6-sided), along with the benches.
Surrounding the seating area will be a series of hexagonal natural wildflower meadows demonstrating the importance of lawn management at school such as one-cut meadows, 6 week meadows, etc. A small, sandy, ground nesting site for solitary bees will also be created. 71 of the top 100 food crops in the world are pollinated by bees – this represents 90% of the world’s entire food supply. Yet, 30% of bee species in Ireland are threatened with extinction. One of the reasons for this decline is that humans like to tidy and neaten, pushing back the wild. However, we need to let it back in. We need to bring biodiversity back into planning and schools are an important part of this. There could also be potential to bring a live feed monitoring station from the adjoining weather station on campus, that could provide information on temperature, wind speed, air quality, etc. It could also link to the digital tree trail in the garden next door, possibly extending it into a broader nature trail.