A Natural Double

The scientist and the theologian have had their differences over the years, but most of both persuasions would agree on one thing: being out in nature is the place to be for any deep thinking of any kind. Last week, Mr. Lonergan and Mr. Carvill did just that: retreating to the bucolic hinterland to do some fauna-finding and soul-searching. Faith always comes first: Road Warrior Lonergan was at it again with his ‘retreats that make a difference’. He led Fifth Years off to Glencomeragh, Co. Waterford for a Holy Family Mission Retreat, where faith, philosophy, fun, friendship… and a bit of fooling around were all on the menu.

And the Bio-Buddies Mr. Carvill and Ms. Phelan, likewise, did not let the worst weather of the year stop them from leading the Sixth Year Biology Classes into the wilds of Wicklow to complete their Ecology Field Study.

Young Scientist Fun!

1st, 2nd and 4th Years all enjoyed their visits to the Young Scientist Exhibition at the RDS, especially these First Years with some hands-on science and, perhaps, a taste of possible career paths?

Regarding possible careers, we think this First Year is definitely destined for greater things, but he does make a fine smoothie… and it comes with a handy ‘pulse’ mode!

Of course, the day at the YS included plenty of that which some ‘old scientists’ find most difficult to synthesise: socialising! ( A big thank you to Aoise Arkins for the photos!)

Speaking of ‘old scientists’… we all have to thank two particular ones for the day out (for the kids!) and the free classes (for the non-STEM teachers left behind!): Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Carvill!

Revenge of the Nerds!

How do you match the dizzying heights (and widths and perimeters) of Maths Week?  Well, follow it up with mathematics’ more exciting, slightly mad half-brother (oops…sister!): Science!  Drop those protractors and compasses (but not on your toes), grab some radium and safety glasses and let’s have some fun in Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Reanimation!    Yes, once again, St. Conleth’s went ‘full Frankenstein’ (pronounced ‘Frankensteen’) for Science Week! After a week of Science Quizzes, Rocket Science at the Herbo,’TY Brain Syndrome’-testing (results mostly… negative) and Bio-meddling at UCD, First Years absolutely squeezed all the fun and learning that could be found out at W5 in Belfast and all the residual energy out of our Science teachers Mr. Callaghan, Ms. Phelan, and Mr. Carvill, as well as artsy interloper, Mr. O’Sullivan. The science on show at W5 was quite technical, and you will have to ask one of the whiz kids for the details, but we do know the compound of one universal reaction: F-U-N! Understandably tired were all the teachers after such hi-jinks, but these grizzled, old veterans have juiced up again on laboratory gas and there is talk that they are ready to go again… but that hypothesis has yet to be peer-reviewed!

Yikes! Bio-Med Graduates!

How do STEM devotees celebrate an illogical, incalcuable and inflammable holiday? Well, Ms. Phelan and her Sixth Year Biology students put on mad scientist costumes and visited the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training in UCD… for great hands-on bio-fun!

Our students learned all about the career and educational opportunities in the biotechnology industry in Ireland, including the lucrative reanimation of stolen corpses from the nearby Merrion Cemetery. They also got a tour around the training facility which is used by companies such as Pfizer, Amgen, Abvie, and Sanofi for training and education. We extend a big thank-you to Dr. John Milne, Training Director and Dr. Hannah Jones, for their time and enthusiasm. Their love for their work was infectious (relax, everyone wore masks!) and they, in turn, were impressed by our gang, even saying that there were some students on the trip whose scientific acumen was so evident, that NIBRT would happily have cloned them on the spot! Leo then explained that he had already been cloned during a recent ‘close encounter’ but that he was willing to go again. On the other hand, some of our other kids blended right in with the reanimated cadavers, the less twitchy ones in particular. Well, it takes all types in a bio-diverse world… and school!

“Don’t know much Biology…

… Don’t know much about a science book…” sweetly sang Sam Cooke but he did not have Mr. Carvill The Younger as his teacher. Nor did he benefit from a trip to the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin for a lecture and plenty of hands-on and eyes-on flora fun. Our debonair, bushwhacking Biology teacher cuts quite the heroic figure, poised, as he is always, with nunchaku in hand and on the cusp of some new STEM adventure, and our students flock to him like lemmings to a cliff, or, more appropriately for the day, like flies to a Venus Flytrap. Where to, next, for this intrepid explorer? We can’t do the calculations but we do know that if all teachers were so enthusiastic and devilishly handsome… ‘what a wonderful world this would be!”

STEM+ Story

When Eric Borguet (Captain, 1981) returned to St. Conleth’s, in the company of Principal Emeritus Peter Gallagher, he was impressed with attitude and aptitude of our students and, after a tour with Deputy Principal Angelina Hopkins, the improvements in the school campus since his time at No. 28 Clyde Road. As a Professor of Chemistry at Temple University, he was particularly supportive of our Coach House/STEM development plans. Eric’s career has taken him down the path of periodic tables and laboratory research but he was keen to convey to our Class of 2022 his appreciation of the well-rounded nature of the education he received at St. Conleth’s, and the evidence was standing next to him: the esteem with which Eric held Mr. Gallagher, his former History teacher, was obvious. We hope our graduating students aspire to the career success of Eric Borguet but also his life-long open-mindedness and enthusiasm for all learning, first nurtured here at St. Conleth’s.

Gav, We Are So TYred!

Just what were the Transition Years up to in recent weeks as the rest of the students took their exams and then stumbled toward the finishing line of the Christmas break? Well, plenty! There were more trips around the hinterland of Dublin (Covid be darned!), Yuletide-specific mini-companies, the continuation of such courses as Sign Language and a host of other academic and ‘real-life’ activities, some of which you can see below!

Life Skills with Ms. McGuinness!

BioProjects with Mr. Carvill (the Younger)!

LIFT (Leading Ireland’s Future Together) with Guru Gav!

Buzz, Buzz…

You would think that Mr. Carvill The Younger would be the last to fall for the old honeypot trick, but when Rose showed up from the Dublin Beekeepers Association he was as gaga as Barry B. Benson when he first caught sight of Vanessa, and the fact that this visiting veteran apiarist was carting all sorts of cool beekeeping equipment and gadgets and gear meant that there was also one suddenly smitten young biologist/amateur mellitologist!

And the TYs were soon won over too, as Rose gave a fascinating presentation on all aspects of beekeeping and allowed the students to try on what ha story be the coolest costumes this side of a ninja-yoroi. And Rose even pointed out that… according to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. It’s wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible!

Do Touch!

Too often, especially during Covidity, we retreat to the easier option of not getting too involved: don’t get too close, don’t touch, don’t get infected. But life, and learning, is about getting to grips with things… literally, sometimes. And we at St. Conleth’s, truly support the educational philosophy which underpins the new Junior Cycle syllabi: ‘hands-on learning’. Here we see manual dexterity from both sides of the brain: a cool cinematic special effects workshop from Ms. McGuinness’s Second Year Artistic Performance Class and Mr. Callaghan’s Science class discovering the simple but stunning sights of onion seeds under the microscope. Time to get down and dirty!

Mushroom to Improve!

We are quite fond of twisting the latest news we receive into the corniest headlines, but in this case Third Year Charlie Plant and his Science teacher Seamus Callaghan did all the work for us. ‘Mushroom to Improve’ refers to Charlie’s award-winning ecology project in which he explored the potential use of mushroom mycelium and waste materials to produce more eco-friendly packaging.

SciFest 2021 judged the project to be worthy of an Outstanding Achievement Award in their regional finals and the certificate just a roved in the post. One thing is certain, there is not much room for improvement for Charlie and Mr. Callaghan’s scientific research expertise, but rumour has it that the dynamic duo are currently woking on modifying an old Delorean sports car so that it can travel…

Park Life

One good habit that has developed during covidity has been the growth in Conlethian usage of Herbert Park. We had always treated ‘Herbo’ as our adjunct classroom: making use of the greens spaces and fresh air for honest pedagogical reasons… or just to give the kids (and teachers) a bit of a break. And because of the rather annoying covid contingencies such as mask-wearing and inside social-distancing, we have really colonised the place since the first skiers returned from northern Italy with a persistent cough. Some teachers have gone al fresco with gusto: Classics has returned to its ancient outdoor classroom roots; Wellbeing nearly always involves a walk; and the PE department has made the green fields of Ballsbridge (and the take-away lattes of Lolly’s) their own. This academic year, thanks to both the good weather and lingering mask-wearing, has also seen heavy Herbo usage.

Above, you see Mr. O’Brien assemble a troop of willing adventurers to embark to the park while Mr. Sheridan’s Fifth Form opt for story-time in a bucolic Ballsbridge setting. And our Seniors often bump into the Juniors (without touching) on the winding paths: Mr. Callaghan, expert entomologist, leads his Science class on a bug-hunting trip; Mr. Lonergan teaches the exciting and energetic (but less contacty) sport of Ultimate Frisbee; and 3C assemble for Class Captain speeches and vote (Liam, speaking here, was chosen as Vice with Finley taking the captaincy). A multi-use space, indeed, but what do we do when the rains come in?

STEM 2- Culture 1

We were clearing our desktop- wait, stop there! When we said ‘desktop’, were you thinking mahogany and leather, Ikea MDF special or soulless blue digital screen? In other words: Are you a Boomer, X-er or Zoomer? Anyways, in one of our folders (Manilla with cord closure? A4 cardboard with generic uplifting photo of kittens? Or blue or yellow icon?) we found a few stories that we had buried when more important stuff was happening: two from the STEM side and one from the right side of the brain, but then again, this division is inconsistent and may be artificial: one of our STEM stories involves al fresco theatre and the other involves a particular Ancient Greek letter, while our humanities adventure is centred around the cold lines and angles of architecture: kismet or just serendipity? You decide, but first up is a little dramatic performance starring Oisín Power and Seamus Joyce, the Wagner and Miranda of their year, as inspired by Ms. Phelan’s lesson on Dr. Tony’s best friends: T-Cells.

On an another particularly fine afternoon, we were taking our fifth class of the day down to Herbert Parks for ‘research’ and we came upon Second Year Charlie Plant. Knowing that Charlie is a bit of a Rennaisance boy with interests and talents across the spectrum of arts and sciences we doorstopped him with one question that had been bothering us:

And now for the Humanities. Each year, the Fifth Year Classics Kids go on a little tour of Georgian Dublin to see neoclassical architecture in the flesh. Actually, they go on a few tours. Weekly, in fact.

First Years Invade Bray!

You have heard how Mr. Lonergan and his rather raucous gang of PE, Geography and First Year teachers decided to give the Herbert Park regulars a bit of peace and quiet by taking all the First Years off to Bray for a day…. well here are the photos that prove the expedition a rousing success!

Various flora and fauna kept the Science teachers happy; there were a few tombolos and plenty of erosion (Watch your step!) to keep the geologists interested; a bit of interaction with the rather selectively bred locals for the ethnographers; and plenty of cardio and leg-stretching in line with the PE syllabus. But, most of all, there was a heck of a lot of fresh air and fun! Second Years, your turn next week!

The Last Waltz?

‘Make hay as the sun shines’ the old adage goes, but at St. Conleth’s we also follow a more recent proverb: ‘Take your class to Herbert Park if there is no Category 7 hurricane’. Especially during lockdown. There is something about ditching the masks, walking down the lane and entering Dublin 4’s sylvan paradise that please both students and teacher… if it does put out our local yuppies and attendant personal trainers, a wee bit. Nevertheless, we assert our rights to this civic amenity and even get some work done.

And when Mr. Morris returned from his rooftop weather station with some bad news from the barometer and anemometer, we knew we must get last licks before the real Irish summer commenced. Below we see Ms. McGuinness’s class artistically performing with bubbles and flowers; Ms. Coleman holding her Fourth Class in rapt attention with story time al fresco; Mr. Maguire trying to convince his Business class to invest in a new cryptocurrency called ‘The Gav’; First Years unenthusiastically but obediently all lined up; and a TY Science class with Ms. Phelan in our own front-yard amphitheater.

Zoom Science!

One of the biggest losses during Conlethian Covid Contingencies has been the loss of the school laboratory: probably the single best example of the importance (and fun!) of hands-on learning and how it is missed when outlawed by the Committee for Public Safety. How the kids enjoyed their science classes in the lab: mixing solutions, dissecting specimens and reanimating moribund classmates… never mind teachers sneaking in at lunchtime for a reinvigorating jolt of voltage or relieving puff of gas! Ah well, perhaps by the proper, astronomical start of Spring we will be back in white coats and test tubes, but in the meantime Ms. Phelan is conducting her science via Zoom and her First Years have been gung-ho in their participation in various experiments. Most recently, 1C have been busy in the kitchen- not cooking calorific treats à la The Bake-Off- but advancing the frontiers of science by making acid/base indicators using assorted vegetables: red cabbage, beetroot and red onions. Red is the key here! Enjoy the pics below (more to come) and don’t worry if you hear an explosion or see a house-sized mushroom cloud in the neighbouring cup-de-sac: it is just a St. Conleth’s Zoom Science Laboratory in progress!

Help Jamie Nail the Covid Blues!

First Year Jamie MacNicholas still needs your help! If you are a student and have not filled out his BTYS project survey on the psychological effects of covid measures, please do! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VYXQ5XP

Covid Blues?

Yes, we are all singing that sad little song, but one way to change the tune is to understand the virus better, and to investigate the psychological costs of the various restrictions put in place to combat it. Could the cure actually be worse than the illness? First Year Jamie MacNicholas has taken on the challenge to find out, and in the process gained entry to the main Young Scientist competition, following the guidance of his Science teacher, Mr. Callaghan, and in the footsteps of last year’s winner Cuan Moore and a long litany of BTYS Conlethian stars such as the famous Zorin Brothers. Here. Jamie explains his project himself, and how you can help him with the research:

I have entered the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition which will take place virtually in January. The title of my project is COVID-19: A statistical investigation of the impact of the COVID-19 social restrictions during the lockdown on the well-being of 10 to 18 year olds.

A report from UNICEF in May of this year stated “Children are not the face of this pandemic. But they risk being among its biggest victims. While they have thankfully been largely spared from the direct health effects of Covid-19 at least to date – the crisis is having a profound effect on their wellbeing.”

In my project, I want to investigate (i) the impact that COVID-19 social restrictions have had on the well-being of 10 to 18 year olds during the lockdown (ii) the amount of daily physical activity undertaken by young people during the lockdown and (iii) the amount of time spent by young people playing video games and watching TV during the lockdown.  

I hope to get over 200 volunteers between the age of 10 and 18 in St. Conleth’s College to complete a voluntary, anonymous, online questionnaire using SurveyMonkey. The survey will ask questions about their experience during the lockdown. I have prepared a questionnaire similar to the questionnaire used by the CSO in April this year when they measured the impact that COVID-19 has had on personal well-being in Ireland. 

If you are a St. Conleth’s student and aged between 10 and 18, please click on this link and complete the survey. Thank you. Jamie MacNicholas


Junior Certificate: Science
Leaving Certificate: Biology, Chemistry and Physics

Look at dramatic inflation in the ‘points’ requirements for Third Level Science courses, and you will see how important, and competitive, an education in Science is becoming.  The employers clearly want Science graduates, and entry into these courses is now at a premium!   Of course, for the Department of Science at St. Conleth’s, making our students eminently employable is only a by-product of our true mission: to encourage our students to learn and enjoy all the wonders of the World of Science.

The new Junior Cycle places Science right up there with the holy trinity of English, Irish and Maths as a required subject, so there is no dodging the donning of the white lab coat!  And why would you try?  JC Science gives you a broad but lively and engaging introduction to all the various areas and aspects of the subject, from astronomy to zoology, with hands-on laboratory experience a priority.  At St. Conleth’s something is always cooking up there in the lab, and an added bonus is a nice break out on Clyde Road for everyone when someone inevitably trips the smoke detector with his smouldering magnesium.

For Leaving Certificate, we encourage every student to do at least one science, and we set the timetable so that it is possible to do all three: Biology, Chemistry and Physics.  Smaller class sizes assure close attention from the teachers and there is a lively competitive spirit and repartee between the senior science subjects.

Science also comes alive outside the classroom at St. Conleth’s. We have a proud tradition of entering and winning prizes at the Young Scientists Competition, with multiple teams and individuals being selected for exhibition each year, and our teachers also take students to other Science events throughout the year, including the Scifest national science exhibition and competition, which we are hosting an associated event this year.

Some relevant links:

Also of interest: