Archive for August, 2008

The Giants Causeway

| August 30, 2008 | 0 Comments 

“That place in Northern Ireland”

Anybody who has been to any of my presentations or training days, might possibly remember the moment when I show a landscape from Myst III:Exile and pretend I can’t remember the name of “that place in Northern Ireland”

It is my way of making it “US” rather than “Us and him” because I always get a response, from somebody, or all of the audience, of “The Giant’s Causeway”.

It is also a chance to introduce the concept of a shared learning journey when working with children.

Whilst we are in Northern Ireland, I am glad to have had the opportunity to include a trip to the place itself. And what an incredible landscape it is!

The Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s most famous landmark and has been an official Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986.

Formed between 50 and 60 million years ago, the ’causeway’ takes its name from the legends of Finn MacCool and draws people from far and wide to this corner of north Antrim.

This jagged promontory of neatly packed columns of hexagonal basalt rocks was created some 6 million years ago by a flow of basaltic lava. As the lava cooled it formed these distinctive hexagonal shapes just as the bottom of a dried riverbed would crack into shapes.

We were quite surprised by the scale of the place. I suppose that, because of the name GIANTs Causeway, I was expecting each pillar to be larger and wider. There were far more than I thought though, the rocks stretching out into the sea in undulating waves of their own.

It is easy to see how these almost perfectly symmetrical formations would be viewed as otherworldly by our earlier ancestors and how the Giant’s Causeway would give rise to colourful legend.

The story goes that mythical Irish giant Finn MacCool (or Fionn mac Cumhaill) built the causeway to get to Scotland and battle with a rival giant called Benandonner. When he got there he found that the Scottish giant was asleep but also far bigger than himself, so Finn returned back across the causeway. When Benandonner woke up he came across the causeway intent on fighting Finn. Finn’s wife dressed up her husband as a baby and when Benandonner arrived she said Finn wasn’t home and to be quiet not to wake up the baby. When Benandonner saw the baby he decided that if the baby was that big, Finn must be massive. So he turned tail and fled back across the causeway ripping it up as he went. All that remains are the ends, here at the Giant’s Causeway and on the island of Staffa in Scotland where similar formations are found.

A Wonder of the world?

In the past the causeway became widely known as the “eigth wonder of the world” when large numbers of visitors came to view it from the 1700’s. Perhaps now there is a chance it could be officially recognised as such: In 2008 the Giant’s Causeway was nominated for the accolade of one of the world’s seven natural wonders. The new seven wonders of the world were announced in Lisbon, Portugal in July 2007 and the “new seven wonders of Nature” as they are officially called were launched. These are currently being ballotted and the chosen wonders will be announced in 2010.

It was very refreshing to see that a site, of such remarkable natural beauty, was still totally open to visitors. We spent a long time at the rocks, sometimes sat marvelling in silence at the shapes and colours. Other times scrambling (or in my case, stumbling) over this huge playground.

Samuel Johnson, in the 18th century, said, about the Causeway, “worth seeing, yes: but not worth going to see.”

I disagree. If you get a chance, GO.

Rainey Endowed School, Northern Ireland

| August 28, 2008 | 0 Comments 

Rainey Endowed School, or ‘The Rainey’ as it is known locally and to all have attended or taught in it, was founded by Mr Hugh Rainey, an iron smelter and wealthy merchant in the Magherafelt district. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Congregation of Castledawson, which at that time included Magherafelt.

As a result of a vow made to God for his protection and favour he, by his will dated 11 April 1707, devoted one half of his estate to fund a charity school for 24 boys, “sons of parents who were of good report and reduced to poverty”. After three years instruction the boys were to be given a suit of clothes and £2.50 for an apprentice fee.

In his Will, Hugh Rainey wrote “that what I have left may not only be for a generation or two, but that it may be for many not yet born . . .”

An excellent school, and a great setting for a training day today with staff from the school and with colleagues from neighbouring  schools.

A day full of laughter. Thank you.

Thank you to Principal, Robert Robinson, and his colleagues for an excellent event.

Termoncanice Primary, Limavady, Northern Ireland

| August 27, 2008 | 1 Comment 

A GREAT day at Termoncanice Primary, Limavady, Northern Ireland.

We really enjoyed the incredibly generous and warm hospitality of Seamus Coyle (who is the principle of Termoncanice) and his wife Philly, at “Chez Coyle”. What charming hosts!

We relished a delicious meal at The Lime Tree Restaurant, in Limavady, (recently visited by Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen, although how he avoided dipping those frilly cuffs in the scrumptious soup I don’t know!) and some lilting crooning from Seamus, set us up for our Irish visit.

Limavady is most famous for the tune Londonderry Air collected by Jane Ross in the mid-19th century from a local fiddle player. She later used the tune for the song Danny Boy.

We talked about different ways of recording and publishing children’s work.

What it a pleasure it was to meet Jimmy Stewart from “C2K” and talk about the superb infrastructure that the Northern Ireland schools have in their ICT set up.

Kevin Coyle and he were rightly enthusing about their Media Scape projects.

A mediascape is composed of sounds, images and video placed outside in a local area. To see the images and video, and hear the sounds you need a handheld computer (PDA) and a pair of headphones. An optional GPS unit can automatically trigger the images, video and sounds in the right places.

To create a mediascape, you start with a digital map of your local area. Using special, free software, you can attach digital sounds, pictures and video to places that you choose on the map.

Kevin, along with Eamonn and Hilda, from Termoncanice, have been developing some superb landscape experiences, where children can explore an area and interact with audio and visual nuggets that stimulate, engage and motivate them to dig deeper into a region and its events.

Thank you to Seamus Coyle, and his colleagues for a very enjoyable first day in Northern Ireland, and first day back in the academic year 2008/2009

A BIG welcome to Sarah Neild, joining me full time… Here we go… watch this (s)pace…