Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Dig Into Ireland
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities


Before teaching this lesson, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word-processing document with all of the Web sites listed as hyperlinks, so that students can access the sites. (Note: It's a good idea to preview these sites before presenting them to your class.) Make sure that your computer has necessary media players, like RealPlayer, to show streaming clips (if applicable). Cue the NATURE: IRELAND videotape to the beginning.

Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.


Students will need the following supplies:

  • Computers with Internet access
  • Pens, pencils, and other writing tools
  • Graphic organizers for collecting and organizing research
  • Presentation board
  • Art supplies

    Teachers will need the following:

  • Television and VCR
  • The video of the episode "Ireland" from Thirteen's series NATURE.
  • Photos of the different environments and wildlife of Ireland
  • Photocopies of Web resources if there are not enough computers available

    Web Resources:
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    Introductory Activity:
    (One class period)

  • Have two maps posted on the wall: a map of the world and a map of Ireland. Point to where Ireland is located on the world map. Divide students into groups of four. Ask them to list what comes to mind when they think about Ireland. Then have students write what they came up with on the board. Answers would probably include:
    • Association with the color green
    • St. Patrick's Day
    • The shamrock
    • Irish music
    • Irish dance
    • Leprechauns and fairies
    • Religion
    • The troubles in Northern Ireland
    • The potato famine
    • Emigration to America
    Other associations which might be elicited and should be mentioned are:
    • The Irish coast
    • The Celtic cross
    • Rural society
    • Bogs
    • Horses
    • Beer
    • Wool
    • Fishing
    • Seafaring

  • Refer back to the maps, and point out to the students the relatively small size of Ireland, a land with a population of about 5 million people, located in the northwestern corner of Europe, separated form the European continent and Great Britain by great bodies of water. Now show pictures of the varied Irish landscape – the burren, mountains, monoliths, farmland, bogs, seashore, lakes and streams, rural villages and cities. Pose this question to the students for discussion: Why is such a small, relatively remote country represented by such a distinctive variety of cultural symbols? Among the student responses should be:
    1. As an island in the North Atlantic, its climate, ecology and culture is influenced by the ocean and currents.
    2. It has a varied and unusual landscape and geology, making different areas suitable for some types of agriculture and unsuitable for others.
    3. Being relatively far north, its landscape might have been partially formed by glaciers.
    4. It was up until recent history mainly a rural village society, close knit with strong cultural and religious ties among the people.
    5. It is probably an ancient culture, with its own myths and legends, influenced by invasion from Britain and the European continent.
    6. Because of famine and political turmoil, many have emigrated to other countries, spreading their culture.

    Learning Activities:

    Activity 1:
    (Two class periods)

  • Prepare students to watch "Ireland" from Thirteen's NATURE ( series. Explain that in the program they will see the environments found in Ireland and the animals and plants which are found in them. These environments have been shaped by forces over a period of millions of years – forces brought on by mountains and geology, ice age glaciers, the ocean, the Gulf Stream, ancient forests and ancient peoples. All have had a profound influence on creating unusual and stunning environments found nowhere else in the world. Distribute the "Ireland" organizer to the students, and tell them to pay close attention to how the forces discussed have had an impact on the particular mix of plants and animals that distinguishes Ireland from the rest of Europe and the world, as well as the type of agriculture and fishing practiced.

  • While viewing the program, stop the tape periodically to ask students to express their feelings about what they saw. Ask the following questions to stimulate discussion:
    • What are unusual aspects of the different environments of Ireland?
    • What effect have the glaciers had on the environments of Ireland?
    • How does the fact that Ireland is an island affect the diversity of wildlife found there?
    • Most of the ancient forests are gone, but how can their influence be seen in Ireland even today?
    • Do all the influences on the environments of Ireland go back millions of years, or are they more recent?
    • How can the activities of ancient humans have an effect on the nature of the present environment?
    • What are differences between the influence of the ocean and Gulf Stream?
    • Did all the plants and animals live in the same habitat that they have been adapted to for millions of years, or had their habitat changed?
    • How have the different landscapes – the shore, drumlins, burren, bogs, fields - been used by the Irish?
    • How might the Irish environments have had an influence on the development of myths and legends?

    Activity 2:
    (Five class periods)

  • Divide the students into groups of two. Explain that each group will explore the "connections" between an Irish cultural or natural phenomenon (e.g.: any of the items listed in the introductory activity brainstorm) and Ireland's ecological environment. They will trace how the cultural or natural phenomenon arose in Ireland, what environmental factors fostered its evolution, and ultimately how the phenomenon was influenced by major global factors like mountains, geology, ice-age glaciers, ocean, Gulf Stream, ancient forests and ancient peoples. They may choose to focus on one of the phenomena discussed in the introductory activity, or one of the phenomena they saw in the program. Possible cultural symbols of Ireland that could be studied are:
    • the color green
    • Irish wool
    • horse breeding
    • peat as a fuel source
    • the shamrock
    • Irish music and dance
    • Irish painting, including medieval illuminated manuscripts
    • Irish poetry, folklore and literature

  • In their research, students should use the "Irish Connections" organizer and follow the following sequence:
    1. Choose something associated with Irish culture or wildlife (see examples above).
    2. Perform research on this subject, trying to learn as much as possible about it. If the subject is a plant or animal, study its natural history and ecology, its evolutionary origins and how it might have been introduced to the Irish environment. If the subject is cultural, find out how and why it developed in Ireland and where in Ireland it originated (in terms of its location and its environs or society). It is particularly important to find connections between the phenomenon and the environment.
    3. Learn about the environment with which the cultural phenomenon is associated. Study its natural history, the conditions through which it was formed, and the timeframe of its development and evolution. Learn about the plants and animals associated with its environment, and the society that exists there. Students should pay careful attention to the way the conditions of this environment affected development or evolution of the cultural or wildlife phenomenon they chose. They should consider, too, how the phenomenon influences its environment.
    4. Students should then explore how and when global forces -- such as geology, Ice Age glaciers, ocean, the Gulf Stream, ancient forests and ancient civilizations -- had or have an influence on the phenomenon's environment or the phenomenon itself.
    Tip: If students are doing research on some aspect of the arts, they may want to focus on how that particular art form portrays the environment. For example, Irish folklore and songs often focus on the countryside. The appearance in folklore of fairy creatures of the forest may reflect an aura of enchantment surrounding forests, which in Ireland are rare and ancient. How are their descriptions shaped by the countryside? And how is the countryside described by Irish culture shaped by global forces?

  • After completing their research, the groups create a large wall display charting the connections of the environmental factors to the evolution of the phenomenon they chose. This display could be in the form of cardboard or paper and incorporate text, images, drawings and illustrations and timelines.

    Culminating Activity:
    (Two class periods)

  • Students should write a brief travel brochure for Ireland, in which they focus on the phenomenon they have studied and how it evolved in the Irish landscape.

  • Students should present their displays and travel brochures, and should give a short promotional presentation, aimed at interesting others in exploring their Irish phenomenon. This presentation should describe in detail the connection between their Irish phenomenon and the Irish eco-system. Students who performed research on some aspect of the performing or literary arts of Ireland may wish to include video, recorded music, readings from fiction or poetry or even live music or dance in their presentations.


    Cross-Curricular Extensions:
    • There are other parts of the world associated with horse breeding. Perform research on other regions famous for horse breeding and why the practice arose there.
    • Create a 3-dimensional map of Ireland from papier-mâché and acrylic or watercolor paint. In this map note the environments discussed in the "Ireland" program and the forces that influenced their development.
    • Many other cultures, such as the ancient Greek, Roman, and Native American, are rich in myths and legends. Study the mythology and legends of a culture as well as the environment that it developed in. Trace connections between elements found in the myths and different aspects of the environment.
    • The PBS program "Living Edens: Big Sur -- California's Wild Coast", from the NATURE series (, reveals another area with unusual ecosystems, formed by special global forces acting on them for millions of years. Watch this program and perform research on the environments of Big Sur. Compare the environments of Ireland and Big Sur, and the forces that shaped them.
    • Although there are many areas in this country that we think of as wilderness, their present ecosystems may have actually been significantly influenced by past human activity. Study a wilderness area and its history, and trace how past human activity may have affected its present ecology in terms of plants and animals present (or absent) and possible changes in the landscape.
    • Attend some Irish cultural event, such as a museum exhibit, traditional music or dance performance.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students