Mapping the Picker Pals Journey 

In this blog post, Picker Pals founder, Patrick Jackson talks about his lifelong obsession with maps and ways we can use them to learn and build community motivation around the Picker Pals mission to make the world better by defeating litter and littering.

I was a little boy who loved maps. I’d leaf through the atlas, daydreaming my way along distant coastlines and across empty deserts, planning epic journeys to unknown places. As a teenage backpacker and hitchhiker, there was always a map in my pocket. In the summer of ‘86 my friend Bill and I walked the length of Ireland from Malin Head in Donegal to Mizen Head in West Cork. By the end of the trip, our map had been spilled on, slept on, argued over and thoroughly abused. It was as much a part of the journey as our boots. Another year, Robin, Bill and I canoed across the country from Dublin to the Shannon via the Grand Canal. At the heart of that journey too, was a grubby, ripping-at-the-folds, dog-eared book of maps. And many great memories and friendships.

Picker Pals is a collaborative journey made up of tens of thousands of individual adventures, full of great moments, connections, and memories. This year we are travelling in the company of 30,123 children and their families. 75,000 of us will go out of our front doors with our Picker Packs and come back with bags full of litter and our neighbourhoods looking a little cleaner. But more importantly, we will all have been changed by the experience and through those individual changes, we can change as a society.

The Picker Pals journey also has a maps at its heart. Using the data lovingly put together by Susan and Angela, we have now added every one of the 1,056 Picker Pals schools participating in the programme in Ireland. This makes the little map-dreamer in me inordinately happy. And the Picker Pal in me is even happier because this shows how far we have come in three years and how we could really and truly defeat litter and littering in the years ahead. This, plus all the wonderful stories, pictures and reports of litter-picking adventures we have been sent is what behavioural change looks like.

The map shows that 33% of the schools in Ireland are now doing Picker Pals. That leaves 67% still waiting to join in. We are hoping to put that right as soon as we possibly can and you can help by getting teachers in schools not yet doing Picker Pals to tell us they are interested via our Expression of Interest for 2022-23. From here.

Kids can learn a lot with maps too. They love learning how to fly like a bird and zoom in with their super powers – a bit like the flying island of Pickerupolis! For classrooms with iPads or an interactive whiteboard and a classroom full of enthusiastic kids, the sky’s the limit.

Here are a few ideas for activities you could try with your students.

  • Find your school. What colour is the marker?
  • What is the nearest Picker Pals school to you? 
  • How many schools are doing Picker Pals in your county?
  • Which Picker Pals schools are furthest north, south, east and west in Ireland*?
  • What Picker Pals school would you like to visit? Why?
  • Which Picker Pals school would be the hardest to get to from where you are?
  • Find a Picker Pals on a peninsula, on a lake, at a place where two rivers meet, at a port, near an airport, near a castle, in the mountains etc.
  • About how many Picker Pals schools could you walk to in a day?
  • Where are the biggest gaps on the map? Why do they think that is?
  • Where are the schools closest together and furthest apart? Why do you think that is?
  • Find these schools using the search function: Scoil Chartaigh Naofa, Burrow National School, The Hunt National School*
  • How many Irish Picker Pals schools are located on islands*


  • The northernmost Picker Pals school in Ireland is Scoil Cholmchille, Glangad, Co. Donegal (55.32˚)
  • The southernmost Picker Pals school in Ireland is SN Cleire, Co. Cork (51.43˚)
  • The most western Picker Pals school in Ireland is Scoil An Fhirtearaigh, Co. Kerry (-10.4˚)
  • The most eastern Picker Pals school in Ireland is Glebe National School in Co. Wicklow (-6.04˚)
  • Scoil Chartaigh Naofa is in Newtown, Rahan, Co. Offaly
  • Burrow National School is in Sutton, Dublin 13
  • The Hunt National School is in Mohill, Co. Leitrim

Trick question! You might discover that seven schools are on islands.

  • SN Cleire on Cape Clear, Co. Cork
  • Scoil Mhichil Naofa on Bere Island, Co. Cork
  • Scoil Naisiunta Ronain on Inishmore, Arann Islands, Co. Galway
  • St Columba’s NS on Inishturk, Co. Mayo
  • St. Patrick’s NS on Clare Island, Co. Mayo
  • Dookinella NS on Achill Island, Co. Mayo 
  • Scoil Naomh Cholmcille on Tory Island, Co. Donegal

BUT of course, all of them are located on islands because:

a. Ireland is an island.
b. The Earth is our island.

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