Cog Notes: ‘Pals’ brings the drama of the Great War to students

Plus: The race for technological university status is hotting up

'Pals - The Irish At Gallipoli' by Anu Productions at the National Museum of Ireland tells the story of a group of young friends who fought with the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Gallipoli During World War One. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks is showcasing a whole new way of teaching history. Pals is the story of four young recruits to the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers during the first World War.

It has been getting rave reviews not only from historians and dramatists but also secondary school students, who have been visiting the show as part of the museum’s outreach and education programme.

Tickets have been taken up fast. One of the lucky groups to experience the production last week was Coláiste na hInse, Laytown, Co Meath. Third year and transition year students found themselves at the heart of the action, as the soldiers – actors from Anu Productions – fired poignant questions from the battlefield: “Would Ireland be proud of us?” “What sort of leader would you pretend to be?”

This was no act of fiction, however. The lives of the four men, who had been rugby-playing friends before the war, are documented in the museum’s exhibition Recovered Voices.

Catriona Crowe of the National Archives, part of the team behind the production, said it sought to explore the complex emotions of young Irish recruits.

“These boys were like the Jamie Healips and Johnny Sextons of their day going off to war. They had their whole lives ahead of them. They were future leaders. They had no idea of the horror that awaited them.”

Some return ticket bookings are still available for schools at pals-theirishatgallipoli.com. Other teacher and student programmes at museum.ie.

 

What about the non-runners in the race for university status?

The race for technological university status is hotting up. The Dublin bid is well in front, followed by Munster (despite a mini-revolt among TUI workhorses). The Connacht-Ulster Alliance has been waved off by the starter, having submitted a formal expression of interest earlier this month, while the southeast pantomime horse of Carlow and Waterford has split in two.

A question that the organisers of this donkey derby seem not to have asked is: what will happen to the four institutes of technology left out of the running?

Athlone IT is agitating for standalone university status (good luck with that!), while Limerick and Dundalk ITs, along with Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology have little choice but to stay as they are.

A new lobby group is being set up that would represent both ITs and TUs, with the express aim of avoiding a three-tier higher education system emerging to replace the current two-tier one. However, in the current dog-eat-dog environment, the group will have its work cut out to maintain unity.

What’s more, Solas, the agency for further and adult education, will no doubt seek to capitalise on this trend towards “titles inflation”. Further ed colleges are keen to shake off their image as a “fall-back option” among a certain body of students and parents, and what better way than to remodel themselves as institutes of technical expertise?

 

Drop everything – except books

Who said newsprint was history? Second-year students from Ramsgrange Community School in New Ross were sighted recently getting stuck in to copies of The Irish Times, donated for the Co Wexford school’s initiative Drop Everything and Read (Dear).

Everyone in the school – including management, students, teachers, caretaking staff and visitors – was asked to set aside 15 minutes each day for reading.

The timing for this daily downing of tools was sprung on participants without notice, which provoked plenty of excitement and lots of conversation about people’s reading habits, said co-ordinator Louise Walsh.

“We saw a notable increase in students randomly picking up a magazine or newspaper, outside of Dear time and outside of class time, in the central area or in the common areas and just reading. It became more of a norm to see students reading for pleasure at various times of the day.”

 

Be mindful of the date for this enlightening Dublin conference

The practice of mindfulness has been a key part of the ethos of John Scottus School in Donnybrook, Dublin, since it started in 1986 (school motto: “Delight in the present”).

Now it is hosting the first Mindfulness Practice in Schools Conference, with keynote speakers Sr Stanislaus Kennedy and Tony Bates, to spread the message to teachers and parents elsewhere.

“In this age of stress and turmoil for young people, mindfulness is now being recognised as a practice that can help young people develop a sense of well being,” the organisers say. “Research shows that mindfulness increases self-esteem, trains and strengthens the mind, nourishes emotional intelligence and improves physical health.”

The conference takes place tomorrow in the Avila Retreat Centre, Donnybrook, Dublin 4. Tickets are €30, which includes lunch. mindfulness practiceinschools.ie

 

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