Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park is a unique conservation, education and ecological site located in the Midlands adjacent to the Mullingar- Athlone Greenway. The Parkland consists of nature trails, native Irish Woodland areas, wildlife meadows, a bird-hide overlooking the Wetlands area and a Turlough or disappearing lake. In 2010 a feasibility study on the Park recognised the uniqueness of the Wetlands area. A Hydrogeological survey of the site resolved the mystery of the annual flooding. The central site was identified as a Turlough or “disappearing lake” which floods during heavy rainfall periods and acts as a sink during dry periods. This karst limestone feature is unique to Ireland. The Turlough in Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park is one of the few to be found east of the River Shannon.
The Turlough is of great scientific interest due to the vegetation and wildlife found here. Features of ecological interest identified in the study include dry grassland and scrub and semi natural grassland. The scrub and long grass provides habitat for nesting birds, small mammals and also provides a local ‘reservoir’ of native plant species. These habitats are very valuable in terms of biodiversity. The Explore Science Programme at Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park aims to offer education in a fun and hands-on way through exploration and discovery. Workshops afford schools the opportunity to learn about the geology of Turloughs and to observe, explore and investigate the flora and fauna of this unique and precious habitat. The objective of the Science Programme at Dún na Sí links in with the Biodiversity Theme of the Green Schools Programme and with the Discover Primary Science and Maths Awards.
Our workshop has been designed with input from primary school teachers and ecologists to be curriculum relevant. It incorporates a variety of scientific and mathematical topics and skills in a fun and interactive way. Hands-on activities will include the identification of common species in the wildflower area and bird hide using simple keys and identification charts and also includes observation and identification of specimens from our purpose built ‘dipping ponds’. Children will use basic scientific equipment such as collection trays, nets, pooters and hand lenses and will be given the opportunity to record and discuss their observations on the adaptations and characteristics of common species, the predator/prey relationships and simple food chains. Children will also participate in and observe demonstrations of related scientific concepts – e.g. effects of acid on limestone, surface tension etc.
On completion of the workshop, participating schools will receive a certificate of attendance.