The historic village of Gracehill was the setting on Wednesday for the launch by Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan of a new province-wide learning resource to help primary pupils appreciate their built heritage.
He was joined for the occasion in Gracehill Old School by Head of Libraries in NI Irene Knox and David Johnston, Chairman of Gracehill Old School Trust.
Gracehill Old School was previously a ‘Building at Risk’. Now a community centre, the school’s architectural significance and rich history proved a fitting venue for the launch of the new resource, a DOE spokesperson said.
Designed by the DOE, the new learning tool will see pupils undertake a series of activities which teach them elements of architecture, starting with their own school buildings.
Pupils are then encouraged to broaden their understanding of heritage by looking at the history and the buildings in their own community, through fun exercises, linked to the school curriculum.
The resource, linked to DOE’s European Heritage Open Days weekend, then broadens the activities to encourage visits to historic properties all over Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the local launch, Minister Durkan said: “We are blessed with attractive old buildings in Northern Ireland that vividly portray the rich fabric of our past. It is important that young people grasp the importance of this. This is an excellent resource which will hopefully generate interest among young people in their built environment and our European Heritage Open Days event in mid September, encouraging them to take part with their families and schools. The idea of extending the event by having a ‘Schools Friday’ on the 12th September has really taken off and I would encourage school teachers to get involved and make the most of the extra day designed for school children only. What better way to foster a better environment and stronger economy than to educate our children about our built environment from primary school age.”
Libraries NI have been working with NIEA to create the new education resource since it was piloted last academic year across 25 schools and three libraries.
Irene Knox, Chief Executive of Libraries NI, said: “I welcome this partnership as it ties in with our Heritage Services and our unique heritage resources which can be accessed by any member of the public. This resource is a welcome addition to encourage our young people to develop an interest in built heritage.”