Leaving Cert students from Presentation College Headford, Coláiste Mhuire, Ballygar and St Joseph’s Patrician Academy, who graduated from the Schools Engagement with Archives through Learning research programme at NUI Galway. Photo: NUI Galway.
May 29 2017 Posted: 10:23 IST

A first for Irish secondary school history students in partnership with a third-level institution to receive dedicated teaching using research archives and digital skills provision

Over 120 Leaving Certificate students have graduated from an Archives research programme at NUI Galway. Breaking the S.E.A.L. (Schools Engagement with Archives through Learning) is a project developed by Dr Paul Flynn from the School of Education and Barry Houlihan, Archivist at NUI Galway, which partnered with local secondary schools in Galway to facilitate history students to access the unique archival collections of the University’s Hardiman Library.

The project saw students choose a range of topics, spanning hundreds of years of local and international history, and develop a written history based on primary sources and archival material. The recent graduation ceremony held at NUI Galway brought together the participating students from Coláiste Mhuire in Ballygar, Presentation College Headford and St Joseph’s Patrician Academy in Galway, where they were presented with a published book of their work and a certificate of graduation. All students also received a digital badge in recognition of their work. The awards were presented by Dr Mary Fleming, Senior Lecturer in Education at NUI Galway.

The publication, the Handbook of Second-Level Educational Research, which will also be published in the University’s online research repository database, ARAN, marks the first of its kind in Ireland for Leaving Certificate history students to partner with a third-level institution and receive dedicated teaching using archives for research, digital skills provision and academic writing tuition.

Dr Paul Flynn and Barry Houlihan, Co-Directors of Breaking the S.E.A.L. said: “The project was a hugely rewarding experience – introducing a whole new generation of young historians to the skills of studying archives, handling fragile and priceless material, and the importance of critical thinking and writing skills to their education. The students were wonderful to work with and we are very proud of their achievements.”

Also announced at the ceremony was that Breaking the S.E.A.L. has been inducted as the first Irish representative into the ‘EU Story’ network, a Europe-wide network of young historians. The project recently received a national Teaching Excellence 2016 Award from CONUL, the Consortium of University and National Libraries and is also nominated for the Irish Education Awards 2017.

John Cox the University Librarian said: “Our archives are open to all researchers and it is very rewarding to see them so impressively used by Leaving Certificate students from local schools. Well done to all associated with this wonderful project.”

Dr Mary Fleming added: “This is a wonderful initiative that connects Leaving Certificate students with the University. The project challenges the students to develop as Historians through using the primary sources available in the library in their Leaving Certificate projects. A visible outcome of the project is the students’ enhanced appreciation of History as a discipline as well as a deeper engagement with their own learning as students. Teachers, students and all involved are to be congratulated on the wonderful outcomes from the simple step of making the archives available, literally - breaking of the seal.”  

For more information on NUI Galway’s Digitised Archives Collection, visit: http://library.nuigalway.ie/collections/archives/depositedcollections/digitisedarchives/

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