What better way to beat the winter blues than trip to the 30-degree heat of the Tropical Ravine at Belfast’s own Botanic Gardens. Two Portstewart Primary Schools have just done this in celebration of their glorious win of not one but two lauded awards from the annual Rolls-Royce Science Awards.
The schools, Portstewart Primary and St Colum’s, landed the runners’ up prize and the ecologically focused Eden Project Award outright when they entered their joint STEM project entitled ‘Marvellous Movers’. The project involved over 460 pupils designing and making their own vehicle from recycled materials and powering them with renewable energy. The mammoth task reached its climax with a public exhibition at Flowerfield Arts Centre in the coastal town of Portstewart.
In addition to the monetary prize, funded by Rolls-Royce, the Primary Schools won a trip for all 66 of their P7 children from both schools to explore and expand their scientific knowledge and skills at Belfast Botanic Gardens.
Cailín Lynn, Tropical Ravine Activities Officer said, “We are delighted to be invited to host the pupils in celebration of their great wins. Our position here means we can collaborate with the Ulster Museum, Belfast in Bloom and The Nerve Centre to offer a truly inspiring outing to enrich the children’s knowledge of and interest in the living world through hands on and digital experiences.”
Rani Gill, Rolls-Royce Education Outreach Manager, made the trip from Derby as a special guest. Ms Gill is responsible for a number of outreach projects promoting STEM in the wider community and in schools across the U.K., the aim of which is to reward excellence in STEM teaching.
“The scope and focus of this project really impressed our panel of judges at Rolls-Royce and we were all surprised and delighted when Sir Tim Smit and his team at The Eden Project felt the same way. It is the first time in the history of running the Science Award competition that a school has won more than one prize!”
Applications are now open for the Rolls-Royce science prize 2019/2020. Please find information on the following website:- https://careers.rolls-royce.com/united-kingdom/educators-and-parents/science-prize
Ms Louise Gilmore the ‘Marvellous Movers’ project lead from Portstewart Primary School helped to organise the trip; “This trip is the culmination and recognition of all the hard work put in by both schools in the implementation of our joint project. It is fitting that the children from both schools have this opportunity before they leave primary school to reap the benefits of winning and bring more knowledge and enthusiasm for the ‘World Around Us’ back to school with them.”
Dr Lucy Greene P7 teacher at St Colum’s and planning team member of the original project, accompanied her class on the visit. “This is a real treat for our pupils to be able to visit the Tropical Ravine and have it all to themselves. We really appreciate the work that Cailín and her team have put in to making this an interactive experience. The pupils have some ‘awesome’ tales to take back to Portstewart!”
During the trip the pupils had the chance to sample a Rainforest Feast, handling, tasting and smelling tropical fruit; they also had the opportunity to discover and learn how to care for more indigenous, edible plants and to bring them back to their school gardens in Portstewart; their final activity was held in the Ulster Museum in conjunction with the Nerve Centre delivering a Digital Botanical experience!
The success of the ‘Marvellous Movers’ entry to the Rolls-Royce Science Award has spurred on the two partnership schools, Portstewart Primary & St Colum’s to instigate two main legacy initiatives – firstly a joint after schools STEM club, in conjunction with their local post-primary Dominican College and secondly participation in the Education Authority’s Shared Education Programme (now in its 2nd year at Portstewart and St Colum’s Primary Schools). No doubt there are more marvellous moves ahead for the primary schools in Portstewart!