Engaging with Europe through the Erasmus+ Programme

Woman - Principal Mary Doherty
Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada Principal Mary Doherty

The Erasmus student exchange Programme was established by the European Union in 1987 and many of our schools and centres have participated in it over the years. Erasmus+ runs from 2021-2027 and our Arranmore Island school, Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada, has been involved in an Erasmus+ funded project since 2020 which Principal Mary Doherty tells us more about it in this blog.

The school first became involved in the project arising from a visit I undertook to Cherbourg, France, during the October 2019mid-term break. This visit was organised by Mr Julien Bougon, Director of the Tourist Office in Cherbourg in conjunction with the Alliance Francaise in Dublin. I was selected along with four other French teachers from schools across Ireland to participate in this visit to Cherbourg-en Contentin France. This all expenses paid trip was a delight and involved visits to the best-known sites in the region e.g. Cité de la Mer, Art Galleries and Theatres in the City. The visit included a tour of the various World War 2 Museums in the area including a trip to St. Mère de L’église and to Tatihou Island (L’île de Tatihou). This trip to the small French island was particularly interesting as it allowed comparisons to be made between Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal and this small island off the coast of Cherbourg.

A meeting with local teachers was also organised in Cherbourg and the Erasmus+ Programme was mentioned at this meeting. It was clear that the French schools were looking for an Irish partner school and we were all interested in being that partner school and had to await a decision which came later.

A number of weeks passed after our return to Ireland and in early January 2020, Mr Julian Bougon contacted me with a view to the possible involvement of the school in the Erasmus Project which focused very much on the protection and preservation of the Marine Environment. He proceeded to put me in touch with Madame Pascale Le Franke, Principal of Collége Cachin in Cherbourg, whose school was to lead up on the project. At this stage Mme Le Franke had successfully procured other partner schools both locally and internationally to take part and the writing of the project began in earnest during February 2020.

There are three Cherbourgeois partner schools involved in the project (Collége Cachin, Le Lycée Maritime, Le Lycée Agricole) together with partner schools located in Reus (Spain) and Mendicino (South Italy) as well as the Irish partner school located on Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal. This project was approved by the Erasmus+ Agency in August 2020.

School signThe project is of two years duration (2020-2022) and is funded by the National Erasmus+ Agency in each country (Léargas in our case). €28,274.00 has been allocated to Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada for our participation in the project. This budget has been used to cover management, travel, accommodation, subsistence and exceptional costs associated with the project. This very generous budget is being managed by our school in conjunction with Léargas, the national Erasmus+ agency in Dublin and in association with Co. Donegal ETB.

The aims and objectives of the project include an awareness by young people of their local marine heritages, to provide them with a sense of European belonging and to provide them with the knowledge, skills and tools in order for them to take part in European debates. They will be enabled to become actionary citizens and will be expected to communicate with wider audiences regarding the processes and outcomes of their project.

The project involves teachers from the following school disciplines: Science, Geography, Maths, History, Art, CSPE and Languages Departments.

The target groups for the project are the current third year and transition year class groups (28 students) who will continue to take part in a wide variety of activities and initiatives prior to student mobilities which it is hoped will take place in 2022.

Activities planned during the course of the project included student participation in a Logo Competition; each school organised an internal logo competition and the best Logos from each school were posted on Twinspace (eTwinning), the platform chosen by Erasmus+ and the partner schools on which to place their work during the course of the project. The partner schools were then invited to vote for the best overall European Logo to represent their O.C.E.A.N project. The logo representing Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada Arranmore Island was voted the best logo and this now represents all schools in the project.

The emphasis of the project in 2020/21 was very much Science, Geography and Maths based e.g. measurements of air quality and the presentations of findings on graphs, the collection of plastics from local beaches, the analysis of plankton in laboratories, the study of local wildlife and the study of climate change and its impact on population migration. The input from the Art and Literature Departments is also assured and the focus of the project in 2022 moved to the History and Heritage of Marine Environments.

Student mobilities included the French groups visiting Arranmore Island in March 2022, whilst other groups from the three French schools travelled to Spain and Italy respectively during this same time period. Students from the six participating schools will then meet in Cherbourg during May 2022 to get actively involved in Environmental Protection, to present their projects and to visit tourist sites locally.

Involvement in Erasmus+ projects is a highly valuable experience for students. Other Donegal ETB schools who may be interested in taking part in an Erasmus+ funded project should in the first instance contact Léargas who will be more than happy to provide schools with advice and guidance in relation to potential projects and partner schools.

Garimscoil Mhic Diarmada on Arranmore Island wishes to acknowledge the support of all school staff, parents, Donegal ETB and Léargas, as well as the support and resources received to date by our European partner schools.