CoP Ireland

On November 28th 2023, the Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) LOESS team launched the first meeting of the Ireland Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP aims to bring together stakeholders involved in soil health education and awareness in order to foster discussions on what works and what needs to change to embed soil health education at all stages and with all audiences. 

WHO ARE WE? The Ireland LOESS CoP involves experts from different disciplines and sectors, including horticulture, agriculture, science, sustainablity and environmental educators, soil scientists and NGO and community organisation representatives. 

These include two representatives from Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. which provides integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities. The COP also comprisess a lecturer in primary school education from Marino Institute of Education, secondary school teachers centrally involved in the Irish Schools Sustainability Network, and lecturers in horticulture, environmental management and sustainability education from Technological University Dublin. Some of these lecturers’ research interests include the Leaf no Waste project on growing and packaging food and the Go Green Routes EU project investigating the links between green spaces and human health and well-being. In addition, a representative from the Further Education and Training department of Education and Training Boards Ireland is a part of the CoP group. We also have members from Stepping Stones Forests, a community organisation who plant small, urban, densely planted woodlands in school grounds and parklands in Dublin and the LEAF (learning about forests) Ireland programme which works with schools and community organisations and is run by An Taisce, a charity that protects and promotes Ireland’s natural heritage.

At the kick-off meeting, the following CoP members were present: 

  1. Orlaith Mernagh: Postgraduate student in Environmental Science, Teagasc, Ireland.
  2. Ken Boyle: Sustainability Education Lead, Technological University Dublin, Ireland.
  3. Rachel Freeman: Lecturer in Horticulture, Technological University Dublin, Ireland.
  4. Jacqueline Howley: Skills Development Officer with the Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI).
  5. Claire McDonnell: Lecturer in Chemistry, Technological University Dublin, Ireland.
  6. Caroline McGowan: Postdoctoral Researcher, LOESS project, Technological University Dublin, Ireland (since December 2023, Caroline moved to a role as Research Management Support Officer in TU Dublin)

The Ireland CoP team has grown since the first meeting and we are looking forward to the discussions at our next one. The TU Dublin LOESS Ireland team has also changed as Saurabh Singh has taken over from Caroline McGowan as the LOESS Postdoctoral Researcher.

As a result of the kick-off meeting, key insights that surfaced include:

  1. There are fundamental differences in soil use perspectives between different professionals in Ireland e.g. engineers and horticulturists.

  2. Soil is often only valued for the services it provides, monetary or agricultural value, rather than a recognition of its value in terms of biodiversity.

  3. Terminology sometimes used to describe soil is an issue for example, ‘muck’ and ‘dirt’ which may deter people.

  4. The EU Nature Restoration Law is in development. If passed, it will require that work is done to improve soil quality.

Education Innovation Group

Two members of the LOESS CoP in Ireland will also participate in the project’s Education Innovation Group (EIG): Ken Boyle, a Sustainability Education lead at TU Dublin and Codie Preston, a secondary school teacher with strong interests in sustainability education.

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