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Winners of the Mini Scientist, Shane Leahy, Sean O’Brien, Marc O’Brien and Eoin Carey from St John's National School in Cratloe. Photogrph by Marc O'Sullivan

Cratloe pupils’ prizewinning badger project

PUPILS from St John’s National School in Cratloe were the overall winners at the Intel Mini Scientist Grand Final, held in the Helix at Dublin City University. A special award for best visual display went to pupils from Bridgetown National School.

Now in its 10th year, the competition gives pupils from fourth to sixth class the chance to explore science through project-based learning and exhibitions.

The Cratloe project was an investigation into the behaviour and habitat of the Irish badger. The four winning pupils looked at the association between badgers and the spread of bovine TB and an alternative to culling was studied, in the form of vaccination.

The pupils also developed their own badger repellent, based on their investigations. The winning pupils were Sean O’Brien, Marc O’Brien, Eoin Carey and Shane Leahy.

As part of the prize for the overall winning project, the school will receive a grant of €1,000 from Intel.

Minister Richard Bruton addressed the pupils at the prize-giving ceremony. “Science is all about asking questions about how the world around us works, asking how to improve the way the world works and finding new ways to do things differently.

“Today is a day to celebrate some of our best young people, some of the best primary schools in the country and some of the best ideas. WB Yeats said that education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire and competitions like this provide you the opportunity to light that fire.”

Cratloe principal, Dr Susan Frawley said she was delighted for the boys on their achievement, as it’s not every day that an award of such stature comes to their school. She said the boys were very enthusiastic and motivated from the start and that their project, The Badger – Victim or Villain, is a credit to them.

“They left no stone unturned, every aspect of the badger’s life was researched, examined and written into their project. Science is very much to the fore in the school. There is a keen interest from teachers and pupils alike in the whole area of science. Every year, teachers and pupils get involved in the Intel Mini Scientist Competition, Discover Primary Science and Maths, Engineers Week, visits from Declan Holmes of Science Ireland, visits from Geoff Hunt from Heritage Schools and the Green Schools Programme,” she said.

Dr Frawley praised Noelle Gleeson, the science co-ordinator in Cratloe school, and all the teachers for their hard work and dedication to the education of pupils, especially in the area of science.

Class teacher, Bernadette Kennedy and Ms Gleeson said the staff are so proud of the four boys on the winning team.

“Their enthusiasm and passion for the topic was commendable and inspirational from the outset. They’ve worked very hard since September and their knowledge of badgers and other wildlife has grown immensely. In total, there were 27 projects prepared by the children in the school for the regional competition and the Intel judges praised the very high standard of all the projects.
“Overall, the Intel Mini Scientist Project Competition is a very worthwhile and valuable experience for all primary school children,” they said.

The boys on the Cratloe team said they decided to complete a project about badgers because it was something different that people don’t know much about. “There are three sides to the story – the farmers’ side, the badgers’ side and our side. We feel people have only always thought the badger is a dangerous animal that spreads disease. But while they can spread disease, so too do other wildlife. They are not dangerous either, unless they are cornered.

“We even put our hands into a badger set. When we took a photo of the set, we could see the badgers’ eyes shining in the picture. When it was announced that we won, we were shocked. We didn’t realise how big an achievement it was until the minister, Richard Bruton, said we were first in all of Ireland. It was unbelievable. There were so many other great projects. We’re now creating a repellent for badgers,” the boys declared.

There were also celebrations in Bridgetown National School, after fourth and fifth-class pupils, brothers Eden and Trinity Minehan, Seàn McMahon and Emily O’Doherty were awarded the Best Visual Presentation Award at the final for their project, The Secret Lives of Crows. They designed and devised experiments for their project, investigating the question ‘do crows have facial recognition?’.

The Bridgetown students first qualified out of their school and then along with others at the regional final in Shannon last November. There were 24 projects from all around the country at the national final. A spokeswoman for the Bridgetown Parents’ Council said the children were delighted they managed to “scoop” such a major prize.

Sarah Sexton, head of STEM programmes at Intel Ireland, was delighted with the success of this year’s Mini Scientist Grand Final.

“The projects on display are all winners in their own right and are a showcase of the months of hard work by thousands of young people across Ireland. Each student competing is a fantastic role model of creativity and enthusiasm and has done a remarkable job in sharing their work. We are very proud to be at the heart of the Mini Scientist competition and look forward to seeing all that will be made possible by these young people in the future.

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