Sculptor Beth Newman Maguire at the archway created by her and students of 5th class. Photo: Gerry

Special day for Wilkinstown as news school building and sensory garden opens

The new state of the art school building and sensory garden at Scoil Naomh Barra in Wilkinstown will provide innovative facilities and "a nurturing environment where students can grow and flourish," according to principal James Minnock.

The new building was officially opened last week with children from both special education and mainstream classes cutting the ribbon in a "student-centered ceremony."

The new sensory garden and art work created by the students with a focus on nature was also unveiled as were the sculptures ‘Archway’ and ‘Dove’ by renowned artist Betty Newman Maguire who was artist-in-residence for the project.

It was a full circle moment with the school having been under development for the last number of years as principal James Minnock explains: "Over the course of the five or six years we have had three separate extensions.

“The first one consisted of a classroom and a special education teaching room, the second was a two storey extension which included a special autism classroom and another special education teaching room, a sensory room and main stream class room," he added.

"The final one which we only moved into last year has three main stream classrooms and a small general purpose hall, a music/library room and an astro turf pitch at the back."

Betty Newman Maguire has been involved with many projects in schools across the county but this one was particularly special as her three grandchildren are students in Scoil Naomh Barra.

"It has been a real pleasure working with the staff and students in all the classes within the school," said Betty.

"Caterpillars, snails, ladybirds, bees, cobwebs, spiders, butterflies and birds became the focus for the classes," she added.

"It was an absolute delight to see the level of interest and observational drawings, paintings and sculptures that the students created.

"It was also icing on the cake to be able to work with my grandchildren, Edward in junior infants and Alex and Izzy who are in fifth class.

"Musician Harry Long was there on the day to open the garden.

"I wish to thank Meath County Council Arts Office for the Community Arts Award."

Among the art work, sixth class students created several poems relating to nature, wildlife and the passing seasons. Two poems were selected and the text carved onto limestone plaques and placed in the sensory garden for everyone to read and enjoy.

Meanwhile, fifth class created clay sculptures which later were cast in bronze and then assembled onto the ‘Archway’.

"We have always had a beautiful school and one that we are very proud of but we have been able to add to it," said principal James Minnock.

"We have been able to add a sensory garden and our own on site playground here as well so we have facilities that are second to none that we are very proud of and facilities that the children can grow and play in," he added.

"It means a lot to work in a nice environment and it means a lot for the kids to play and be happy in as well."