Science field trips are a great way to enthuse your pupils about the world of science and nature. We are exceptionally lucky in Ireland to have so many attractions of scientific interest within easy reach and a few short days away can provide a huge range of teaching and learning opportunities. In each issue of School Spin, we will focus on a particular area of the country, highlighting the scientific attractions assessable within the area. This issue’s suggested field trip activities are all within Co. Clare.
Co. Clare has an abundance of activities for the science and nature enthusiast and is a brilliant place for a science, or more specifically, a biology field trip. A three day visit to Co. Clare can provide a jam packed itinerary for a school trip, which can be targeted specifically at science or made cross-curricular. Here are some suggested places to visit:
The Burren, which means “Stoney Place”, is one of the most unique areas of Ireland, both geologically and biologically. It was formed over 340 million years ago, during the Carboniferous Period, at the bottom of a warm, shallow sea. The limestone pavement, for which the Burren is famous, was formed by the calcium rich skeletons of marine organisms that lived in those shallow seas. Over the years, through glacial, tectonic, chemical and human influences, the Burren has evolved into what we see today. The result is a wonderfully rich landscape of swirls, tiers, cliffs, caves, hollows and pavements, classical features of a 'karst' landscape. Over 70% of Ireland’s plant species are found here including 22 of our 27 native orchids and it is awash with mammal life too – including all of Ireland’s 7 species of bat. A good place to introduce the history and geology of this wonderful place is the Burren Centre in Kilfenora. Open from March to October, the centre has a wonderful exhibition and their website (www.theburrencentre.ie) has downloadable “education packs”. Saying that, the only true way to explore the Burren is to get out and explore the landscape and its wonderful wildlife on foot! For more information on the Burren visit www.burrenbeo.com.
The Aillwee and Doolin Caves
The geological structure of the Burren lends itself to the formation of wonderful cave complexes and the caves at Aillwee and Doolin have been brilliant adapted as show caves. The visitor tours are excellent and well suited to a school audience and are a must see when in Clare. Doolin cave is home one of the largest free standing stalactite in the world – The Great Stalactite – and has recently opened a new visitor centre. The caves are open all year round with more information available on their websites: www.aillweecave.ie and www.doolincave.ie.
Situated within the Aillwee Cave site is the brilliant Burren Birds of Prey and Educational Centre. The centre has a huge collection of native birds of prey, from owls, eagles, vulture and hawks, and even organises live flying exhibitions with brilliant displays from golden eagles and peregrine falcons. There is also an excellent gift shop on site - definitely worth a visit. For more information visit their excellent website: www.birdofpreycentre.com.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are a geological icon and another “must see” when in the Clare area. Five miles long and over seven hundred metres high, the cliffs are one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. The impressive towering cliffs are also home to huge numbers of sea birds, from puffins, guillemots, gannets and shags, all nesting in the cliff face and feeding in the waters below. (Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!) If you’re on a budget, skip the newly constructed centre and simply enjoy the view. For more information visit: www.cliffsofmoher.ie
Co. Clare Coastline
There is no better place in Ireland to carry out an ecological study than on the Clare coastline. From the majestic Black Head down towards Fanore, you will find a variety of coastal sites perfectly suited to studying the “rocky seashore”. The sand dunes at Fanore are also an excellent place to see ecological succession of plant species, from marram grass to sedges to the parasitic dodder. The coastline has an abundance of plant and animal species and is one of the most amazing areas of coastline in Ireland.
While Co. Clare has an abundance of attractions for the science and nature enthusiast, it is also home to many amazing historical and geographical gems. A cross-curricular trip could include a visit to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, the Poulnabrone Dolmen, Caherconnell Stone Fort, Craggaunowen, Lahinch Seaworld or the Brian Boru centre in Killaloe. Co. Clare is an excellent place for a school trip and within easy access from most parts of the country.