T.Y. Applied Environmental Science Project

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Pilot Applied Environmental Science (P.A.E.S.), 6 years a growing as a T.Y. Project at Millstreet Community School.

P.A.E.S was initiated during November 2006 at a meeting between Principal P. Pigott, Frances Kearney and Christine Barrett (School Parent) with Ted Cooke, who is a member of Macroom Environmental Group founded in 1985.

Environmental Life Skills.


Since March 2007, P.A.E.S. has evolved organically as a Component Module for the benefit of Transition Year (T.Y.) Participants.

“Forging both Scientific / Analytical skills together with a Respect for Life’s myriad incarnate Life Forms, simultaneously,”

best defines P.A.E.S.

The project draws its annual theme from their designations by U.N. of each successive year: - 2010 – UN Year of Biodiversity.   2011 – U.N. Year of the Forest and 2012 – U.N. Year of Co-operation.

Earlier designated U.N. years included Oceans, Rivers, Wetlands and Mountains.

Cognitive identification of species and their roles introduces students to a more fulfilling engagement with nature – itself imparting perspective from within its endless Bounty of Secrets untold.

M.C.S. with its expansive School-grounds comprising sufficient Resources Material provides P.A.E.S with a “Baseline” Resource Pack – mature specimen Scots pine, Horse Chestnut, Beech and Sycamore reminding us that M.C.S. once formed part of the Coomlogane Demesne (Estate) of the McCarthy – O’ Leary Family.

Recent addition of a Maple /Beech/ Ash Grove to the school grounds (C.1980/90’s) continues to be managed while an Alder Grove of some acreage remains unmanaged and, in being left to its own evolution, continues to harbour several woodlands species of Songbird, Bat, Insects (including Moth and Butterfly) and a rich field story of Wild Plants – because the football Pitches drain into this Alder Wood, the site bears all the indicators of an emerging wetland.

Building Receptivity.

Students are empowered as they identify and distinguish Plants (including Lichen/Fungi) – during National Tree Week 2007 T.Y. students assessed the appropriate site for planting each of “the Seven Lords of the Wood” as listed and described in Ireland’s ancient Brehon Law Code. (Oaks, Ash, Yew, Scots Pine, Wild Apple, Crabapple and Hazel)

To assist in subsequent Oak identification students planted both Sessile and Common Oak and an intermediate form.

Alder (a Nitrogen – fixer) was added to the Rank. During March 2012, T.Y. identified the Male Flowers and Female Flowers on both Hazel and Alder. The relationship between Geo-diversity and Bio-diversity is developed – introducing Soil Chemistry Annually since 2007; students have identified a number of fungal Lichens – progressively noting a reduction in the Sulphur – tolerant species throughout the School-grounds. We have speculated on the likely cause of Air Quality improvement at Coomlogane. 2008 class group erected a number of Batboxes and an assortment of Birdboxes – manufactured during woodwork classes – and learned of “optimal siting” in the Alder – Sally wetland and on chosen Specimen Trees. Because Local Geography is best conferred with Stability by Native Trees and shrubs, all the signs of occupation of the Boxes are present.

In their own private lives outside school, be it the pleasure of pathless woods or rapture of a lonely shore, students are encouraged to pay close attention to “Morphology” (forms of individual species) and consider and learn to recognise indicators species communities and what they say about the health or otherwise of their respective realms (habitats) and where arising, to source the pressure and threats to Eco-Systems and their functions and services.


T.Y. added Spindle; Aspen; Holly; Ash additional Crabapple and learned of their associated insects (Spindle as a host plant for Brimstone and Holly as a food plant for our common and Holly, Blue Butterflies) and Irish Bluebells.

Preserving Local Genetic Characters continues to remain the aim of P.A.E.S – through the “Provenance” of our stock which originates in the Lee Basins wild spaces. In time, M.C.S. will source genetic material within the Blackwater Catchment.

The “conflict” between Lichens and Ivy was introduced to this T.Y. cohort by teaching – trainee Dr. Theresa Higgins (Woodland Ecologist)– I advocated for Ivy. Because P.A.E.S entirely remains a “field” or “outdoor” study, P.A.E.S focuses on “ Group teaching” because it is “hands – on” and “inter-active.” The value to participants during our field Days (including 2 field days in Killarney National Park) with Dr. Higgins was to consider Climate Change’s impact and the probable necessity of intervening in Ireland’s wilderness spaces.

2010 – U.N. of Biodiversity.

Because each successive T.Y. class group builds and expands upon preceding T.Y. projects – Building a Resource Pack with a strong M.C.S accentresponsibility for preserving the momentum rests with each consecutive T.Y.

During 2010, T.Y. oversaw the dedication of a “Biodiversity Zone” and supervised the planting by every class of Hazel, within the B.D. acre. Environmental Studies run naturally abreast of M.C.S’s Commitment to Fair Trade because both aim for wise management of Resources which embodies Human Rights and Environmental Justice. Protecting the vitality of our National Resources of Air and Water and Soil and Energy (Options) ensures the “Growth – Decay” Dynamic is assured.

Nature Reserves.

The “Western World” since the early 19th Century has tended to remand within strictly delineated precincts our Biodiversity - a species of State Custody.

Our late John Paul II (echoing Dante) referred to “Earth” as “the flower Garden of Cosmos.” P.A.E.S places emphasis (on an evolving perception) that we, in reality, live and pass over within a single and integrated and unified Eco- System – that our actions, at all times, enhance or diminish the “Capacity for Self- Repair” within Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecology – and within individual populations of species, including ourselves.

2011 and 2012 TY School- ground projects.

Economic Modelling and planning progressively encourage commodity land use. Human Population coupled with runaway climate change threaten Global Food Security – moreso in the developing Southern Hemisphere.

During 2011, T.Y. established an Apple Orchard – several of the Apple varieties being rare old Irish types and nearly forgotten. Appropriate application of Organic Soil Conditioners was introduced – together with the principles of sound after-care. Plant Pathology in time will be added to P.A.E.S conservation skills – together with treatment options. Groundsmen Tony and Danny will monitor for “storage qualities” as the apples establish.

A nut orchard was added by 2012 students – traditionally orchards included hazel varieties (Cobnuts) and walnuts. The “Food Tree” Sweet Chestnut was grown in Parkland.

Site Assessment /Alkalinity / Stoniness of Soils/Drainage and Orientation to the South were studied in advance – excellent stock was sourced from Irish Plant Breeders – their capacity for acclimatisation / adaptation to M.C.S soils will be apparent in due course.

Planting traditional hedgerows and tracking their Historic Ecology, Benefits; Services and Functions may well be a project for 2012 –2013 T.Y. participants additionally, a feasibility study into school – composting at MCS makes sense – PAES encourages “ sustainability as a way of thinking because taking personal responsibility makes life so much more interesting.

Ted Cook


National Tree Week 2013

TY March 6th 2013.



Native Trees Project.


T.Y. Students embark on our 2013 Theme: - “Native Irish Trees and Shrubs”


An Irish Tree or Shrub has been assigned to each student, for completion during May 2013.  The accepted definition of a shrub is a “tree that normally reached full height of 5 metres” e.g. Hazel, Spindle, Guelder Rose, and Elder. 


In class, we introduced the meaning of “Native” – a plant or animal or fungus that arrived in Ireland without man’s helping hand at the ending of the recent Ice Age, which glacial melting continues.  Beech, Lime, Horse Chestnut, Sycamore etc. were introduced to Ireland at different periods since the 12th Century Norman Invasion.  (Exotic.) 

In class, we introduced the meaning of “Bio-diversity”: - The entire known life forms on Earth, many of which remain to be discovered and identified and classified.  Bio-diversity is additionally widespread within the same species of Plant and animal and fungus.  Nature always “bets each way” and does not place “ all eggs in one basket”.  We noted some Alders – some in full flower (male catkin) and others at a delayed stage.  Same with Hazels.


Absent students (on March 6th) will study the video recording of our Tree/Shrub Identification walk, so as to keep astride of our project.


Native Trees Support most Bio Diversity.

Irish Oak supports 584 Wild Beings  - Lichens, mosses, insects, mammals, Birds, Fungi in Symbiotic Relationships.  Horse Chestnut supports 4 insects and a reduced number and diversity of other Wildlife. 

Native Trees and Woodlands (Natures highest achievement) are best equipped to face pests and diseases – and have adapted to huge Climate Variations since their arrival C.9, 000 years ago.


Plant Evolution.

Seaweeds represent the earliest ancestor of our Plant Kingdom – Algae, Mosses, Ferns, Grasses, Flowering Plants including our Trees are descended from the Seawater Environment.


The Animal Kingdom evolved from much earlier primitive Plant Kingdom.  As explained, Animals internalised the mineral – laden seawater – Blood.  Seaweed remain the most easily ingestible and assimulatible foods for humans.  All plant life benefit from a dressing of seaweed (dust.)


Monoceious or Diocieous??

Students will learn which trees and shrubs bear both male and female – and the “Single sex” plants.  Alder, Hazel, Oak, Apple etc are monoceious – both sexes on same plant.  Sally (Willow), Holly, Yew, Jumper and Mountain Ash (Rowanberry Shrub) are separately sexed. (Diocieous.)


The Students undertaking our “Ash Tree” will discover that in recent decades, the Ash has evolved from diocieous towards monoceious.  Very much of the Ecological Sciences remain imperfectly understood.  All species adapt (if they can) to newly emerging environmental pressures. 



Potted Holly and Bare – root Hazel

To mark Tree week at MCS we chose to add a Potted Holly (Evergreen) and a Bare-root Hazed (Deciduious or Broadleaf) 


Only 5 of Irelands 28 Native Trees and shrubs are Evergreen: - Holly, Yew, Arbutus, Jumper and Scots Pine. 


While not included in our list, Ivy is an Evergreen Shrub (though it will grow the height of its host tree.) Any student not assigned a tree, might consider profiting the huge contribution to woodland Bio-diversity offered by Irelands two forms of Ivy - and consider whether Ivy is Symbiotic or Parasitic on its host.


A Corridor along the school Boundary below the Playing pitches has been assigned for the planting by each student of his/her adopted tree.


The Aim of this Native Tree Project is to foster scrutiny of the Plant and Animal Kingdoms in the Student – to develop appreciation and to enhance MCS’s Environment and Space for Bio-diversity to function and expand.

In this our PAES’s 8th Year, National Tree Week in early March coincided with “Life – long – Learning week.”


Plant and animal identification offers students opportunities to look beyond the borders of the progressively challenging Curriculum – in the expansive outdoors of the schoolgrounds and away (briefly) from the Indoor Experience.  F


or many of us, student and adult, our time has become dominated by screens.


To increase the number of our trees and shrubs reaching maturity, T.Y. are introduced to sound and conscientious Tree-planting practices.  Site appropriateness to a specific sapling – light /shade / moisture /well-drained sandy soils, soil structure and level of compaction and shade/wind exposure is observed and practiced.  It brings us together as a group in advance of site preparation and planting.


Students added a “bare-rooted” hazel and a “potted” Hollytree to the “Gathering” (Crinniú) of Wych Elm, Yew, Alder, Sessile, and Common Oak, Ash, Scots Pine, Crabapple planted by former T.Y. Students since 2006 – to mark our National Tree Week (March 6th 2013). With the exception of prostrate (Burren) Juniper, all of Irelands indigenous (Native) Tree Stock grow and are cared for at M.C.S – some in larger numbers including old cultivated Irish Apple varieties and Hazels.  At M.C.S suggestion, T.Y. gathered again on April 10th 2013, for a full half day to evaluate and prepare a 45meter linear site along the School Boundary with a southerly prospect.  Students undertook planting a “Rank” of Irish Trees evergreen and deciduous hardwood, which included Aspen, Bird Cherry, Buckthorn and Willow.  Both common and our upright Hibernian Yew were added to facilitate easy distinction and while our “Forest School” project at MCS focuses on promoting and preserving “Irish Tree Genetic Character” an American Red Oak and European Hornbeam were added to impart “Seasonality” (hectic Reds) and “Structural Diversity” and while native Diversity of Plants and Animals and fungi are key to our “Forest School” variety remains the spice.


On both our field days with TY, we learnt to distinguish “Native” from “Introduced” – the origins of Plant and animal settlement and distribution 9,000 year ago following the fast-melt of the 1-mile thick ice sheet that entombed Northern Europe.  Simple Geology and the effects of climate – cooling and warming over “billennia” and soil pH were shared.  Plant evolution (seaweeds to oak) with Lichens in there somewhere was considered.  We always add seaweed at MCS to our planting pits – ask our TY students about this wise practice! Within hours of adding the last (Irish Whitebeam) to our “Rank”, Ireland endured violent 110mph gusts - some specimens were affected, notably our Hibernian Juniper (a thick bush of 4 feet.)  On a brief return visit (April 19th) very fine spindle and both varieties of Irish Birch were added and wind damage assessed and plants righted.  

On that same night (April 10th) MCS lost a mature Beech Tree – likely planted during 1790-1820 that witnessed the last large scale Hardwood Planting in our Woodland History with roots into Erin’s youthful days.  Time has come for a new generation to replant and defend against damage, disease and neglect.




Ted Cook