From education to employment

Trainees build eco-friendly greenhouse for local primary school

As part of their commitment to working with the local community, trainees along with apprentices from South Eastern Regional College (SERC) have recently manufactured an eco-friendly green house for Abbots Cross Primary School Newtownabbey as part of their studies.

Over 400 empty plastic drinks bottles were used to make the eco-greenhouse which was designed by the green-conscious gardening enthusiasts, aka, the pupils at the primary school.

The eco-greenhouse at Abbotts Cross Primary School located on the Doagh Road Newtownabbey, is the latest structure to be erected at the school through the eco-school’s initiative. Earlier in the year the school was awarded the Eco School Green Flag Award which is an internationally recognised award for excellence in environmental action and learning.

Last week the primary school pupils and teachers witnessed the official unveiling and they couldn’t hide their delight as they saw the structure for the first time, as the trainees assembled the structure on-site at its new home.

Eco-Schools is a global programme engaging millions of children across 64 different countries, making it the largest environmental schools programme in the world. Eco-Schools empowers pupils, raises environmental awareness, improves the school environment and creates financial savings for schools.

As part of their waste topic through the Eco School programme, Abbots Cross pupils under the direction of teacher Miss Gault, decided they wanted to build a plastic bottle greenhouse.

Principal Mrs Griffith thanked SERC for the excellent work delivered by their students under Technical Support Officer Seamus Branniff. She said “We are thrilled with it. It is a true work of craft, skills and art. The apprentices have done a fantastic job. We wouldn’t have had the money to buy something like this so working with SERC meant we only had to provide the materials. To help us raise funds, we had a ‘Fizzy Friday’ day at school and charged 50p for every cup of juice sold. I can’t wait for the parents to see it. The plan is that it will become an outdoor classroom which will be used to encourage pupils to grow their own produce as part of the curriculum.

“I would like to thank the College and Seamus’ team who have worked tirelessly to build the bespoke eco-greenhouse to our specific needs. It really does look amazing and the quality of the work that has gone into it is evident. Everything has been handcrafted and finished to the highest standard. We would not have had the funding to undertake this work by ourselves, we really can’t thank the apprentices enough.”

Miss Gault, who runs the Eco-Schools Club and Mrs Stewart who runs the outdoor learning programme said: “The idea started at the beginning of term, as part of our eco-school’s campaign. As part of our waste topic, we decided we would like to try and build a plastic bottle greenhouse to encourage children to grow their own fruit and vegetables. We hope that we can now grow enough to supply some for use in the school canteen and that the children can take home. We are really pleased with it” they said.

The build could only have happened thanks to generous fundraising from the Parent and Teacher Association and the kind donation of the plastic drinks bottles from Tesco.

SERC mechanical and manufacturing engineering, construction, motor vehicle and heavy vehicle engineering students were all involved in the construction of the green house.

Rhys McAllister, a 17-year-old joinery trainee from Belfast who was involved in the complex build said he ‘enjoyed making the eco-greenhouse and working with other trainees and apprentices from the college.”

After the frame was constructed, the students completed it using 400 2-liter plastic bottles for the sides and roof. The bottles were then threaded onto a cane which is attached to a wooden frame.

SERC Technical Support Officer Seamus Branniff who assisted the apprentices throughout the project explained: “The trainees have worked extremely hard to put this together in such a short period of time. As they don’t have an employer, community projects such as this allow them to gain the additional skills they need to get the career they want. Therefore, students still get the much-needed industry experience which is vital when seeking employment.”

Applications for full-time courses are now open and students can apply online. Course listings are now available and can be collected from all main campus receptions.

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