Schools Geoscience Competition
Geology Matters, Issue No. 9
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GSI Win eGovernment Award Schools Geoscience Competition Diary Dates

Schools Geoscience Competition
- Prize Giving Ceremony
GSI, Friday 15th May, 2009

Enda Gallagher and Michael Sheehy

Elsewhere in this publication we discuss the possible long term impact of the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE). One of the planned legacies of IYPE is a schools essay competition, entitled My Erratic Rock. The competition had its first outing in 2008 (the year of IYPE) and, having exceeded our expectations, we have decided to run it as an annual competition. The competition seeks to stimulate interest in geoscience among school pupils at Transition Year level in the Republic of Ireland and Years 11 and 12 in Northern Ireland. Entrants are asked to identify an erratic (an out-of-place rock) to tell, in a short essay, its location and how it got there. They are also encouraged to write creatively and to illustrate their entries. Many of the entries across the two years of the competition so far have been simply amazing, full of accurate science as well as insight and genius!

At the 2009 prize-giving ceremony held in GSI in May, the Minister of State for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Mr. Conor Lenihan, T.D., honoured the competition’s winners. In a wide-ranging and inspiring speech he meticulously traced the interesting and unusual links between geology and archaeology, drawing heavily on the unique mix of both at one of Europe’s foremost tourist attractions, Newgrange.

The competition encouraged awareness of geoscience concepts and creativity in their expression. Speaking at the ceremony, competition organiser, Dr. William Warren, GSI, applauded the high standard of entries, “we received a variety of well-researched, interesting and engaging entries. Some of the entrants while writing remarkably accurate geological texts were able to do so in a cultural and economic heritage context, integrating folklore, geology, archaeology and building construction usage. The broad-based judging panel had a tough time selecting just five winning entries,” he said.

Each of the five winning pupils received a cheque for €300 with the overall winning entry receiving an additional €1000 as well as the Maxwell Henry Close Award. The lucky winners arrived in Dublin to the GSI offices aware that they have won a prize but with no idea of who the overall winner was, so the tension was palpable! The winners all brought schoolteachers and / or family members to attend the prestigious event. The school of the Maxwell Henry Close Award winner also receives a prize of digital equipment to the value of €1,500.

The Winner
Overall winner
The overall winner and recipient of the Maxwell Henry Close Award for 2009 was Dónal Mac Géidigh, Pobalscoil Cloich Cheann Fhaola, County Donegal for his essay entitled ‘Cloch Mhór Léim an tSionnaigh. Croithlí Tír Chonaill’

Dónal wrote and beautifully illustrated his essay about a massive granite boulder. He made excellent use of maps and diagrams to chart the course the rock took from its creation to its final resting place. Dónal showed us that the rock’s present location is also part of Irish folklore; Fionn Mac Cumahill threw it at Diarmaid and Gráinne while he was chasing them around the country! We were very impressed with the way Dónal seamlessly linked legend with geology, his clear and accurate scientific writing and with his use of maps, diagrams and photos to tell the story.

Additional winners were:

Ciara Gleeson - Joint County winner
Ciara Gleeson, Presentation Secondary School Thurles, County Tipperary.
‘My Erratic Rock’
Ciara carefully illustrated how geology underpins landscape and scenery. She creatively demonstrated the link between one of the great Irish legends ‘Táin Bó Cuailnge’ and her granite erratic.

Niamh Maher - Joint County winner
Niamh Maher, Presentation Secondary School Thurles, County Tipperary.
‘The Mottee Stone’
Niamh’s essay nicely detailed one of the most famous Irish erratics and documented many of the legends and folk tales that are associated with it.

Alison Jacob - County winner
Alison Jacob, St Louis Secondary School, Dundalk, County Louth.
‘My Erratic Rock’
Alison did a great job linking geology and archaeology. We were very impressed with her use of a geological map that showed the two possible locations from which the erratic could have come.

Ephraim Ó’Ceallaigh, Schull Community College, Schull, County Cork.
‘Ór an Amadáin in Oileán Chléire’
Ephraim took an interesting perspective on mineralisation that he observed in a road cutting. We thought the way Ephraim was able to convey his obvious enthusiasm for, and interest in, geology merited a special award.

All winners pictured with Minister Lenihan
Overall winner and County winners pictured here with the Minister of State for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Mr. Conor Lenihan, T.D.

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