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Sustainable initiatives undertaken by students at Merlin College

Galway's Merlin College is one of the city's fastest growing secondary schools but also flourishing is the school's determination and grá for a greener, more sustainable future for all.

With plans to reduce water usage at the school and raise awareness of water as a critical and limited resource among its 700 students and 70 staff, Merlin College is working hard to create an environment that encourages a positive learning experience both inside the classroom and in the school yard. 

Speaking about the greening initiatives undertaken at the school, teacher Claire Stenson explained: "Year on year we have seen students at Merlin College express a growing interest in the natural and built environment. It is wonderful to see students and staff take a real interest in their local environment and work towards making the school a greener more sustainable place to learn in. In 2020 we were delighted to see the students' work rewarded with our first Green Flag for raising awareness and reducing the amount of litter and waste in our school.

"This year we are building upon that success and focusing our efforts in developing awareness around water conservation and how to effectively manage this important resource in our school and at home. As part of our efforts we reached out to Uisce Éireann, who sponsor and support the Green-Schools Water theme. We were delighted to kick off our Green-School's Water Week held in January, with training from Uisce Éireann on the story of water, how it is treated, the challenges in maintaining a safe and secure supply and most importantly on conserving this precious resource". 

Established in 2013, Merlin College is a co-educational school under the trusteeship of Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board. As part of its ethos, the school is continuing to shine a light on environmental education and awareness. The journey for a greener, more sustainable environment has been many years in the making. 

Claire continued: "This year we were delighted when Merlin College students were chosen to participate in the Green-Schools Water Ambassador Programme for a second year in a row. Last year our students were awarded runners-up in the water ambassadors awards, a real boost for the school. The aim of the programme is to engage directly with second-level students on the topics of water, water conservation, treatment and the marine environment and encourage them to act as ambassadors for Green-Schools in their own schools and local communities. 

"At Merlin College we are committed to the responsible use of our water resources because we recognise the economic and environmental cost of providing safe, clean drinking water and the need to safeguard the supply for the future," explained Claire.   

As part of this journey to educate students and staff on environmental and water awareness several initiatives were kicked off in January as part of the Green-School's Water Week. These included a water and wastewater training session with Uisce Éireann, a Climate Justice Talk from Trócaire, a Water Ambassador 'Wellbeing' Workshop with Green-Schools Ireland, a Water Walk in Merlin Woods with 'Friends of Merlin Woods', a poster and video competition, a podcast, experiments relating to the Think Before You Flush campaign which encourages students to only flush the 3 Ps, pee, poo and paper down the toilet, as well as a litter pick in the local community as part of the 'Neat Streets' initiative. Merlin College already has a rainwater harvesting system in place, but this Spring the Water Ambassadors have set up their own water harvesting system to water the school's polytunnel with great delight. 

Claire continued: "Environmental education is not only benefiting Merlin College but also the lives and homes of students and staff alike. Students are walking out of the school every day reminded of the need to conserve water and protect the precious resource for the next generation. We are hoping our efforts at Merlin College are also reaching further afield into the homes of all our students as well as their family and friends and help us achieve a greener, more sustainable environment for all."

Find out how your school can become more sustainable and environmentally friendly while saving water on the Green-Schools partnership section of our website.

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