A bright future for inclusive education is on the horizon.

Monday, April 3, 2023 - 20:00

The 2022-2023 school year was off to a brilliant start for a group of remarkable students at Scoil Bhríde,NationalSchool in Clara, Co. Offaly. During Science Week, they collaborated with the Biology Department at Maynooth University to bring the ultimate learning experience to primary school students with autism.   

Joanne Fox teaches at Scoil Bhríde in the autism setting, or Sunrise Class. She teamed up with her sister, Patricia McDonnell, Senior Demonstrator and Lab Technician for the Department of Biology at Maynooth University to facilitate an undeniably thrilling Science Week event for her students. 

Previously in 2019, Joanne and Patricia led a volcanic eruption demonstration where students gained the knowledge and experience needed to replicate the lesson for their peers in the mainstream learning setting. This valuable learning opportunity allowed the Sunrise students to shine as mentors to their peers and not only helped them to perfect their scientific knowledge, but also provided the opportunity to learn skills in communication and socialization.  

“This made all the more exciting as they were able to wear lab coats and goggles and handle scientific equipment, allowing them to take on the role of scientist.” – Joanne Fox, Sunrise teacher at Scoil Bhríde, Clara, Co. Offaly. A specialized class for primary students with autism. 

After a few disruptive years the lively duo teamed up once again for Science Week 2022 to provide Sunrise students with astounding science experiments like miniature lava lamps in centrifuge tubes and fun with magnets. 

Laughter cheerfully erupted as freely as the carbon dioxide gas was released. 

The demonstrations use hands on learning techniques for students with autism to access the primary school science curriculum. Patricia asked students to predict what might happen when water and cooking oil are mixed, and again when one drop of food colouring and an effervescent tablet is added.  

As one can imagine, laughter cheerfully erupted as freely as the carbon dioxide gas that was released into the heterogenous mixture, causing the oil droplets to float and fall in the coloured water. The students cleverly observed that once the tablet completely dissolved the reaction was complete, so the eager scientists located extra tablets to repeat the experiment. Precisely what any bright researcher would do.  

The day was an astounding success and hopefully the Sunrise students at Scoil Bhríde will maintain an attraction to the sciences. For Joanne, she was delighted for her students and grateful to Patricia and the Maynooth Biology Department for the incredible visit.  

The school is already making plans to collaborate again in the future, this time in helping to involve the Sunrise classes in their school wide initiative, Green Schools Campaign. Their goal is to earn their Biodiversity flag. We wish the students the best of luck in achieving their goal and hope to join them again for Science Week 2023.