Westmeath, 04 September 2023: Minister of State for European Affairs Peter Burke TD visited Saint Thomas’s National School in Rathowen, Co Westmeath this morning to kick off the school’s particpation in the Blue Star programme and to encourage primary school students around the country to take part and get creative about how they learn and think about Europe.
The Blue Star Programme, coordinated by European Movement Ireland, teaches primary school children about Europe through creative activities and projects that complement the national primary curriculum. Each participating class carries out projects on history, geography, the institutions of the EU, culture and creativity with a European twist. Teachers and their classes can be creative and tailor their projects to their own individual needs and interests.
Speaking about the opening of registration for the Blue Star Programme, Minister of State for European Affairs, Peter Burke TD said:
“I’m delighted to be here in Saint Thomas’ National School today to officially kick off the thirteenth year of the Blue Star Programme, which helps primary school children learn about the European Union. What makes me being here today even more special is that the wonderful students at Saint Thomas’ have taken part in the Blue Star programme every year since it was launched – which is a fantastic achievement!
“As Ireland celebrates 50 years of membership in the EU, the Blue Star Programme takes on even greater importance, fostering a deeper understanding of our European identity and Ireland’s place in it. The young people taking part in the programme today will be the leaders of tomorrow who will get to shape the future of Europe.
“As Minister for European Affairs, I am honoured to support the Blue Star Programme as I have seen first-hand the incredible passion and zeal young people show when taking part. I encourage all primary schools to sign up to this valuable experience this year.”
Noelle O Connell, CEO of European Movement Ireland, also commented: “Taking part in the Blue Star Programme allows young people to develop a deeper appreciation for the diversity and richness of Europe’s cultural heritage and Ireland’s place within it, which in turn promotes tolerance, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging to a broader European community.
“Equally, understanding the European Union is crucial in today’s interconnected world. Young people gain insight into how the EU functions, its history, and its role in promoting peace, stability, and cooperation among European nations, which is of vital importance in today’s world.
“As Ireland celebrates 50 years of membership in the EU this year, we encourage every primary school around the country to take part and mark this important milestone.
“Each year, we are consistently awed by the creativity and originality of the participating teachers and their students who take part in the programme. Nearly 1,100 schools have registered for the program since 2011, and we would love to see these fantastic levels of engagement continue in 2023 and 2024.
Killian Hales, Principal of Saint Thomas’ National School, said: ” Since its inception in 2011, the school has wholeheartedly embraced the Blue Star Programme, bringing the EU closer to our students in a way that traditional textbooks can’t. It’s hands-on, interactive, and allows children to connect with Europe in meaningful ways.
“Over the years, the school’s participation has grown from strength to strength, leaving an indelible mark on the school’s curriculum.
“In the past, students have held mock elections, where students simulate the process of European Parliament elections. This hands-on experience not only helps children understand the democratic process but also encourages critical thinking and active participation.
“But it doesn’t stop at mock elections. The students have delved deep into the diverse cultures and histories of EU member countries through projects that span the continent. From France’s iconic Eiffel Tower to Greece’s ancient myths, the children have explored a myriad of topics, showcasing their knowledge and creativity through these projects.
“As we celebrate another year of active participation in the Blue Star Programme, it’s evident that this initiative has not only imparted knowledge but also shaped young minds into responsible and informed European citizens.
“The enthusiasm and dedication shown by the school’s students and teachers stand as a testament to the programme’s ability to spark curiosity, encourage civic engagement, and bridge gaps between cultures.”
Since its pilot year in 2011, almost 1,100 schools have taken part in the Blue Star Programme nationwide.
Primary schools interested in taking part in the Blue Star Programme 2023-2024 can register here anytime until 6th October 2022.
To complete the Programme, schools are asked to take part in online quizzes and/or submit a Blue Star Programme Report outlining how each of the key elements were explored, at the end of the year. Schools are also encouraged to host an event for Europe Day on 9 May, in school or online.
Further information about the programme can be found at www.bluestarprogramme.ie.
Available for comment:
Ryan Levis, Digital Communications Manager at European Movement Ireland is available for interview and comment.
Contact Cathy Gray, Head of Communications and Youth Engagement, to arrange firstname.lastname@example.org ; 0830262613
About European Movement Ireland: Founded in 1954, European Movement (EM) Ireland is the longest-established Irish NGO working on European affairs. An independent, not-for-profit, membership organisation, EM Ireland works to develop the connection between Ireland and the European Union. We facilitate links between all sectors of Irish society and the EU, through advocacy campaigns, education programmes, training courses, information briefings and networking events. For more information, visit www.europeanmovement.ie .
About the Blue Star Programme: The Blue Star Programme is a venture of the Communicating Europe Initiative, supported by the Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Education and Skills, the European Commission Representation in Ireland, and the European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland.