SURROUNDED by picturesque landscapes of Baronscourt, 48 local students got the chance to leave the classroom and ignite their creativity by stepping out into nature during a recent trip.
Taking part in the fourth year of Pushkin Pathway, pupils from Sacred Heart College and Omagh High School travelled to Baronscourt Estate for educational environmental walks and inspiring workshops.
This was part of an initiative by the Pushkin Trust who have been supporting creative learning for 30 years.
Funded by the Ulster Garden Villages, this year’s theme was ‘Rekindling the Fire Within’, so the three-day event focused on the powerful effects of fire, heat and warmth.
The event featured ‘dance and movement’ classes taught by Carmel Garvey in the estate’s stable yard, andcreative writing workshops hosted by Michelle Garvey in its rustic log cabin where they wrote poems, short stories and held discussions by a lit fire.
Giving the children an extra treat, members of the Nerve Centre also provided the students with virtual reality headsets so they could record and edit their own films based on the event’s theme.
Project officer Pearl Stewart, who was previously an English teacher in Castlederg High School for 33 years, believes that the initiative is important as “all creativity stems from nature”.
“Teens these days tend to be hooked on technology, so it is important that they are given a chance to reconnect with the beautiful world outside,” she explained.
“We think that stepping into nature promotes the use of all the senses and this helps a student become more creative and inspired when they work.”
She added, “When you’re outside, you can hear the sounds of the winds, or see the snow and hail and feel the sun on your skin.
“As the weather changes so do the landscapes, and these are the elements that we wanted them to notice.”
During the event the students were split up into three different groups – ‘Rocks’, to symbolise success and determination, ‘Zest’ to promote enthusiasm, and ‘Smybos’ to represent the symbiotic relationship that exists within nature.
“It’s beneficial for the students as they were working alongside people who they have never met before,” she continued.
“And teachers find that the students are rejuvenated when they get back into the classroom.
“There was a real buzz and excitement about the estate and the students really seemed to love what they were doing,” she concluded. “This is a great initiative and long may it continue.”
The students will be taking part in a showcase day mid-June at the Nerve Centre, Derry where they will perform their creative writings and broadcast the films they created in front of their classmates, school teachers and principals.