Barna students get up close and personal with sharks

Galway Daily news Barna students get up close and personal with sharks aboard the Celtic Explorer

Pupils from Scoil Shéamais Naofa in Barna recently got to get a close up look at sharks about the RV Celtic Explorer.

The second class pupils completed a project on sharks in Irish waters as part of the Marine Institute’s education and out reach programme that came with a tour of the research vessel, the Celtic Explorer.

Padraic Creedon, outreach officer with the Institute’s Explorers Education said one of the unique things they can add to education is finding fun ways to bring marine science into the classroom.

“The students were inspired by the discovery of a rare shark nursery 200 miles off the west coast of Ireland in 2018, and we were delighted to create lessons, interactive experiments and discussion about the ocean, sharks and their environment for the class.”

While aboard the ship the students got to meet her captain and some of the scientists who go on expeditions on the Celtic Explorer, getting a good look at what it might be like to do research on the high seas.

Visiting the dry and wet labs, the students saw various fish species from recent surveys and shark species, such as dogfish and tope sharks.

Scientists from the Marine Institute spoke to them about seabed mapping, shipwrecks and learning more about marine life on expeditions that can last up to 35 days.

Their teacher Clár Ní Bhraonáin said it was an amazing experience where “the students have had a marine scientist in the classroom and also got the opportunity to visit the vessel.”

She added that “Students don’t forget days like this”.

Ronan Costello and Laura Sherlock with an Atlantic Thornyhead and Monkfish

The Explorers programme offers a range of materials to work with, including lesson plans to conduct experiments in class and watching film footage of the seas and under them captured by the Marine Institute.

“Because of the students’ enthusiasm to learn more about sharks, we have been able to incorporate marine themes across the curriculum,” said Clár Ní Bhraonáin.

The students have excelled at this she said, and produced work “from writing books about sharks to a series of posters and artwork. This project has really helped myself and the students learn more about the ocean”.

Dr Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Institute said the Explorers programme is about inspiring young people to become the next generation of marine scientists to help us understand out oceans better.

“The programme aims to build on Ireland’s marine and maritime heritage by increasing awareness of the value, opportunities and social benefits of our ocean wealth and identity.”

“As the Explorers Programme now reaches over 13,000 primary school students per year and provides training and support for teachers, it is imperative that we continue to cultivate an interest in our ocean from a young age.”

For more information on the Explorers Education outreach centres visit the Explorers Contacts page at

photo credit: Andrew Downes, Xposure