OTTER Labs: Ireland

Students in Limerick engage in outside the classroom activities and learn about the ways the world works and how they can improve it by pursuing careers in STEAM 

Ever since our project debuted, we have been tireless in our efforts to prove that "school" can mean so much more than your classic indoor classroom. Through Education Outside the Classroom, a methodology that is both exciting and rigorous, one that promotes learning in various settings (museums, science centre, botanical gardens, parks - and that's just to name a few), students can boost their knowledge of science and engage with nature, learning how to become the responsible citizens of tomorrow. And we are proving its effectiveness on students' engagement and motivation through our OTTER Labs, by actually doing what we preach: collaborating with schools across Europe to organise activities outside and watch the students develop a curiosity for STEAM (Science, Teaching, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) subjects. 

The OTTER Labs in Ireland, implemented with the support and priceless coordination of our partner, the University of Limerick, have involved three schools in the Limerick and Clare regions. As for the feedback, we can now confidently tell you that it has been overwhelmingly positive, which only boosts our desire to continue to strive for making science learning more accessible, and why not, fun! 

These activities kicked off in March, with primary school students from Scoil Íde participating in three workshops on the topic of water in their lives. These students had the opportunity to step foot, maybe for the first time, in a scientific lab, becoma familiar with the work performed there, and interact with real scientists, enquiring about their journeys as science professionals and potentially finding new role models to look up to. Connections were formed that made it possible to toss away stereotypes surrounding people who do science, while emphasising its relevance to our day-to-day-lives. To foster their connection with nature as well, students took a so-called nature walk to the Limerick Living Bridge, where they could see and ask questions about the many different functions of water around us. 

The second OTTER Lab explored the topic of energy efficiency, so relevant in today's fight against climate change. Students from Coláiste Nano Nagle paid a visit to the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care site, where they were offered a guided tour to observe the company's energy generation with the help of their on-site wind turbine. And that's not all - students were also able to learn about the company's policies regarding sustainable packaging and reflect on the many solutions we have to help reduce plastic waste. Finally, the students were hosted by the School of Physics in the University of Limerick, where it was time to put into practice some of the information they gathered previously. Therefore, they could audit the energy efficiency of a building and propose solutions to reduce energy usage in their school (and to use it more responsibly). 

From water and energy efficiency and back to water: students from the last school we cooperated with, St. Flannan’s College, were engaged in activities concerning life below water. Specifically, they were looking at the water quality of their local amenity, Ballyalla lake. The students collected water samples from many local sources and visited Bunlicky Waste Water Treatment plant where they met the Plant Manager from Ward & Burke Group. Here, they were guided through a real-life Water and Sewage Treatment plant and introduced to a broad range of career pathways in this field. By discussing with an expert in the field, they could see that a career in STEAM is not that out of reach: in fact, it can become a possibility for any of them. 

We have documented these activities on our TikTok channel as well - check out the posts here, here, and here - or go visit our Instagram channel

OTTER Labs: Ireland