'Fionn' provided 35 Galway primary schools with the equipment and training necessary to produce their own Science film. This government scheme was set up to facilitate the introduction of Science into the country's educational sector. A herculean undertaking to say the least! But necessary as there has been an alarming fall-off in students studying science at third-level colleges which will ultimately undermine the nation's development as a high-tech/R & D-based economy.
'Fionn' had a number of inherent innovative principles that contributed to its outstanding success:
- Child-centred (narration & the main protagonists)
- Multi-disciplinary (embraced art, heritage, music, drama…)
- Fun orientated
- Locality (look for Science in the classroom, the local field or street...)
If you ask second-level or third level students to produce a film on 'buoyancy', you will probably get an end-product that will be professional, highly scientific, extremely informative but possibly very uninspiring. Whereas, I have seen one primary school class make a Fionn movie on the same subject that included a hilarious rendition of the Beatles's song 'Yellow Submarine' by the entire school; a practical demonstration of buoyancy using plastic cola bottles, stones & a glass tank; a visit to a museum; a classroom festooned with drawings of submarines and a powerful interview with a local man who served as a submarine commander in World War Two! Working on the same subject, another school took delivery of a 15foot tree trunk that they transformed, with a few months of hard work, into a fully functioning canoe using the tools and techniques of prehistoric man ('cutting and burning').
The range and the scientific themes covered by Fionn schools has been absolutely amazing- bats in the school attic, lobster fishing, lighthouses, a medieval abbey, fox-hunting, a disused mine, lake pollution, a school oyster farm, teeth…