As part of the Picker Pals Roadshow 2022, we visited at least one school in every county in Ireland travelling clean and green in our all-electric BMW iX3, kindly provided by BMW Ireland.
This is not just any BMW iX3. For maximum impact, the Pickermobile is decorated with Picker Pals characters – Craig the Crab, Kai the Croc, Phil, the Penguin and even our founder’s favourite, Frostie the West Highland Terrier!
The reaction when we roll up at the schools is epic. Kids (and teachers) gather round and it’s great to be able to tell them that in the not too distant future, all cars will be electric. One little boy asked me if we could swap it with his mum’s car!
So – what did we learn from our spin around the schools, cities, towns and villages of Ireland?
- School staff rooms are welcoming places stocked with a fantastic array of biscuits!
- The kids are alright. Talking to hundreds of children, unprompted about their litter-picking adventures would give you hope for the future. They are more aware of their role, more confident, kinder, more aware of the wider world and a generally healthier bunch than we were at that age.
- Teachers rock. Good humoured, creative, welcoming, fun and so so devoted to their classes. It’s a doddle to turn up as a visitor and have a bit of fun for a couple of hours, but teachers do this day in day out all year round while keeping a smile on. Teachers – you rock!
- Teachers might rock, but school secretaries rule. They’re the gatekeepers for sure and a very fine bunch (he said diplomatically).
- There is a huge appetite for environmental activity and environmental education everywhere we went. The kids and teachers are genuinely passionate about making a difference and we’re delighted to support them. And they are contacting us 24/7 to be part of Picker Pals 2022-23 (sign up here).
- Children are competitive! The clamour to be the one chosen to get the Picker Pack next is quite something. And they are embracing the chance to lead their families on litter-picking adventures and tell their pals about it.
- Parents love getting involved in something that creates off-screen, off-sofa, off-schedule moments with their kids. Picker Pals does just that. Furthermore, teachers are loving building bridges between their Picker Pals classrooms and the local community.
- Natural beauty is everywhere on this island. We visited many well-visited places like the Burren in Clare and the Copper Coast in Waterford. We walked on the endless strands of Wexford and we even took the Pickermobile out to gorgeous Bere Island where we have a Picker Pals school hard at work. But getting off the beaten scenic tourist trail, counties that might be less visited such as Longford, Roscommon, Monaghan, Cavan, Offaly and Leitrim – they’re simply gorgeous. There wasn’t a day when we weren’t gliding along in the Pickermobile marvelling at the loveliness and enjoying the sound of the birds tweeting in the hedgerows.
- There are people doing really cool things for the environment all over the place. We’re thrilled to be a part of that community. We visited the Seal Rescue Centre in Courtown and the Wildbird Conservancy in Wicklow. We milked cows and met sheep at Airfield Farm in Dundrum. We joined the kids of Woodstock Educate Together National School for their St. Patrick’s Day parade and we met the Mayors of 10 Local Authorities. We hung out with the Goats of Howth and got to take a ride on the Liffey Sweeper. On any given day, this island is full of activity and so much of this is making a positive impact.
- We are steeped in history. You can’t escape it – you see it and feel it everywhere, from the ruined cottage or church to the big house to the old shops and pub fronts. We stopped to wonder at the Rock of Cashel, Newgrange, the castles everywhere. And as we visited schools stepping up to welcome refugees from Ukraine, we realised that this is an ongoing, living and vibrant history.
- Ireland’s schools are wonderfully diverse, particularly in urban areas but also in the towns and villages. We met children from so many different backgrounds. And what about our accents! We might be a small island nation but we have preserved a splendid array of regional accents – and I won’t apologise for having missed the odd word or two on the way.
- We are the product of our environments. Country kids know a lot about country stuff, coastal kids know a lot about coastal stuff, farm kids know a lot about farm stuff and city kids have their own particular energy. It was great to learn about different types of livestock and even a thing or two about lobster pots.
- Although there is huge variety in terms of size and age of buildings and the quality of facilities, our national schools are beacons of positivity. From the moment a child walks in the door they are surrounded by colourful corridors, clean classrooms and walls nicely decorated with motivating and encouraging messages and imagery.
And unfortunately, there is litter everywhere. Let’s get this done, Picker Pals!