Dig Into Ireland
Procedures for teachers is divided into four sections: Prep
-- Preparing for the lesson Steps
-- 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.
- Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
- Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0
- 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.
Computers with Internet
Students will need the following supplies:
Pens, pencils, and other
Graphic organizers for
collecting and organizing research
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
- NATURE: IRELAND
This site offers information about Ireland's landscape and culture,
as well as information about the documentary.
- In Search of Ancient Ireland
This is the Web site of the PBS series and contains a wealth of information
on ancient Irish history and culture.
- The Burren Page
At this site users can find ecological, historical and cultural information
about the Burren.
This is the official site of the Irish Wildlife Trust.
- Island Ireland
This is a directory to links pertaining to Irish history, environment,
music and more.
- Old Ireland – a history of the Irish Race
At this site you will find a fairly detailed account of Irish history
from ancient to recent.
- Visit Ireland
This site has descriptions of important sites and history county-by-county,
including an interactive map.
- Waterford Wildlife
This site has information on the aquatic life in an area in southern
Ireland, with important links.
This is another site which gives information on the ecology, landscape
and agriculture of the Burren.
- Living History Ireland
A site devoted to Irish history, with a page of information about ancient
- Local Ireland
This website is devoted to information on the counties of Ireland.
- Ireland story
This site has much information on Irish history and geography, with
- BirdWatch Ireland
Here you will find information on the birds of Ireland and their environments,
and what is being done to protect them.
This beautiful site covers the landscape, nature, history and culture
of Western Ireland.
- Irish Studies Page
A resource for Irish culture – literature, music, folklore and
- Ireland -- Information on the Irish State
The Irish government web site.
- Irish History and Old Ireland Heraldic Gifts
This site has a fairly detailed description of the history of Ireland
from ancient times.
- Hidden Ireland
This is a guide to Irish fairies, including a live webcam Leprechaun
(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:
Other associations which might be elicited and should be mentioned
- Association with the color green
- St. Patrick's Day
- The shamrock
- Irish music
- Irish dance
- Leprechauns and fairies
- The troubles in Northern Ireland
- The potato famine
- Emigration to America
- The Irish coast
- The Celtic cross
- Rural society
|| 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:
- As an island in the North Atlantic, its climate, ecology and
culture is influenced by the ocean and currents.
- It has a varied and unusual landscape and geology, making different
areas suitable for some types of agriculture and unsuitable for
- Being relatively far north, its landscape might have been partially
formed by glaciers.
- It was up until recent history mainly a rural village society,
close knit with strong cultural and religious ties among the people.
- It is probably an ancient culture, with its own myths and legends,
influenced by invasion from Britain and the European continent.
- Because of famine and political turmoil, many have emigrated
to other countries, spreading their culture.
| Learning Activities:
(Two class periods)
||Prepare students to watch "Ireland" from
Thirteen's NATURE (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/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
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
|| 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
- Did all the plants and animals live in the same habitat that
they have been adapted to for millions of years, or had their
- 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:
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?
- Choose something associated with Irish culture or wildlife (see
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
|| 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.
- 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 (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/bigsur/),
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
- 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.