The Green School

At last there seems to be a dawning realisation that we cannot go on treating ‘mother earth’ as though there was no tomorrow. The consequences of reckless pollution of our land, rivers and lakes are clear for even the most stubborn to see. All over the country communities are coming together to protest against proposed dumps or in some cases incinerators in their area. No one wants a dump in their back yard, yet, if we all accept that the huge mountains of rubbish that each of us contributes to on a daily basis, simply has to be disposed of, somewhere, somehow by someone, we can’t just wash our hands of the whole business, we have to recognise that we all have our part to play in finding a solution to this urgent problem. Out of that is emerging from the grass roots a waste disposal plan- long overdue. However, many complain that the County Councils are still lagging in setting up recycling systems to support community efforts. I recently spent a very exciting morning at St. Mary’s Secondary School in New Ross, which is part of an EU-Eco initiative. The European ‘Green Schools’ programme which now operates in 19 countries, encourages students to adopt good environmental practices in the hope of gaining a coveted ‘Green Flag’ for their school. Only 45 European Schools out of a total of 750, have succeeded in achieving the standard required for this prestigious award so far. When I arrived for the School’s Green Day, there were literally hundreds of teenagers dressed in green uniforms in a high state of excitement, crammed into the assembly hall. They were auctioning their teachers to raise money to buy picnic tables made by the Amish Community. The unfortunate teachers who took it all in great spirit, had agreed to wear the school uniform next day, even the gym master was planning to don a skirt! Each new bid was greeted by squeals of delight and ?1,800 was raised as a result. The live-wire behind this project is a willowy blonde Drama and English teacher called Anita Fennelly. She is passionate about the environment and her enthusiasm has been infectious. Her inspiration originally came from a chance meeting. She was strolling along the riverbank close to her home in Killowen near Dunganstown, Co Wexford, when she met a ‘strange looking’ but completely intriguing English man who invited her to taste his sloe gin. The bearded gentleman turned out to be John Seymour, author of ‘Self Sufficiency’ and environmental campaigner for over 60 years. Next step was to inquire into the waste management strategy of the South East, establish a link with An Taisce and Wexford County Council. Anita managed to persuade the somewhat sceptical school management to join the Green School scheme. Anita’s first step was to divide the school into green zones and to appoint ER’s (Environmental Representatives and deputies) for each zone. Green points are awarded at the end of every week. The response from the students to the whole project has surprised and delighted everyone concerned. Joe Morrissey the long-suffering school caretaker and Wexford County Council have been wonderfully supportive according to Anita. Carol Walsh of the County Council presents prizes to the class which gain the most coveted green points. The students are actively involved in a waste disposal and recycling scheme. They are involved in making compost which is at present used to enrich the fertility of the soil in the flower beds around the school. As part of the scheme, recycling is actively promoted within the school. Consequently, bottle, can and newspaper collection points are a part of most classrooms. There are composting containers, where students can throw their leftover lunches, fruit peelings and other organic waste.are a feature of most classrooms. Other initiatives include the design and manufacture of cloth shopping bags by First Year students as an alternative to plastic. The students have also made bird boxes and bird tables as well as planting flower beds and window boxes.  They have been encouraged by their teachers to be creative with recycled waste and had made the most amazing costumes to model futuristic fashions called ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Larger than Life’. Anita Fennelly is also excited that ‘Many of the things they learn here in school are also brought home with them, so the students are not just educating themselves, but also there is a social and community aspect to it. What the project is attempting to do is to revolutionise New Ross in a subtle way’. People stop her in the street and say in incredulous voices – Miss Fennelly ‘ you know you have me segregating bottles, glass , plastic…When I spoke to the students I suggested they extend their recycling to include some free range hens, the edible scraps left over from school lunches could be fed to the hens and come back as eggs a few days later. These I suggested could be used in Home Economics cooking classes or if there was a surplus they could be sold to raise money for other environmental projects within the school.  I also suggested that they use their compost not just for flower beds but to grow fresh herbs and vegetables in an edible school yard as has been done so successfully in schools in California. The students plant the seeds and plants as part of their curriculum, and watch the fruit, vegetables and herbs grow. They are then used for cooking classes and school meals. Anita and the students were very enthusiastic, particularly about the hens – lets hope it can become a reality. This, like waste management is an essential education for real life. As part of the day’s events I did a little cookery demonstration for the Transition Year Home Economics class. I showed them how to make tasty cheddar cheese scones and how white soda bread dough makes a delicious base for pizza, and being in the great fruit growing county of Wexford I showed them how quick it is to make Raspberry Jam.

Cheddar Cheese Scones


1 lb (450 g/31/4 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) salt
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) breadsoda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-13 fl oz (350-375 ml) approx. egg wash
4 oz (110 g) grated cheese, we use mature cheddar.
First fully preheat the oven to 230?C/450?F/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a square about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, brush with egg wash, cut into 12 square scones. Dip the top of each scone into the grated cheddar cheese, place on a baking sheet. Bake on a hot oven for 230?C/450?F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200?C/ 400?F/regulo 6, for 5-10 minutes or until cooked. Serve with soup as a snack.

 

Pizza – White Soda Bread Base


1 lb (450g/3* cups) flour
1 level teasp./* American teasp. sugar
1 level teasp./* American teasp. breadsoda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 level teasp./* American teasp. salt
Sour milk or butter milk to mix – 350-425mls/12-15 fl ozs/1*-2 scant cups approx.
First fully preheat your oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Roll out thinly to fit a large swiss roll tin 10 x 15 inch (25.5 x 38cm) or divide into 6 equal sized pieces.
Cover the dough with fillings of your choice. Bake in a fully preheated oven for 25 minutes approx. For individual pizzas roll out each piece of dough into a 6 inch (15cm) round approx. Spread with 2 tablespoons of topping eg. Piperonata, then arrange 5 or 6 thin slices of Irish Whiskey Salami on top. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of grated Mozzarella cheese and bake in a fully heated convention hot oven for 8-10 minutes or until crisp underneath and golden and bubbly on top. (Careful to roll the dough out thinly or it will not cook properly.) Toppings can be varied – tomato fondue, crispy streaky rashers, mushroom a la creme, anchovies, black olives…..

 

Raspberry Jam


We used frozen raspberries, but do make it in the summer when the fresh raspberries are in season.
Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) pots
Raspberry Jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious.
2 lbs (900g/8 cups) fresh raspberries
2 lbs (900g/4* cups) white sugar (use * lb (225g) less if fruit is very sweet)
Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in a moderate oven 180*C/350*F/regulo 4, for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Put the raspberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.  Hide the jam in a cool place or else put on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!