There is Hope if We Act Together – climate justice mural, Skerries

Source: Trócaire 2016, with permission
Source: Trócaire 2016, with permission

This project aimed to bring primary school student participants on a learning journey about the effects of climate change, and how they have the power to take action for climate justice, so that they felt empowered to raise awareness in their community through creative expression of their hopes and dreams for the future.

The mural project began with the principal of Milverton National School, Johnny Tyndall, travelling to Nicaragua with Trócaire in February 2016 on a teacher study trip. He was inspired by the work of Funarte, a partner of Trócaire in Nicaragua, who use creative methodologies to support young people to understand their human rights and express themselves.

They often use ‘muralismo’, or mural art, in the city of Estelí, which has been given the title the, ‘city of murals’. Johnny brought his learning from the trip into the classroom in Skerries, and wanted to develop this learning further through creative learning and action.

Source: Trócaire (2016) via Flickr

3 big ideas of the project:

  • To explore climate change and climate justice using participatory and creative methods.
  • To foster a sense of solidarity between young people in Ireland and in Nicaragua, based on the need for collective action for climate justice.
  • To create a public forum where the participants could voice their dreams and hopes for the future through the creative medium of mural painting.

5th and 6th class students in Milverton and Realt na Mara National Schools in Skerries explored climate change issues by looking at the local and global implications and focusing on a case study of Nicaragua through a series of development education workshops facilitated by Trócaire.

The young artists were supported by community artist Eimear McNally on their journey from exploration and learning to creative expression of their collective response to the issue of climate change.

The wall mural is an example of local to global learning in action, bringing awareness to the equality young people strive for as they look to the future, and the rights and responsibilities we all have to make this a reality; “there is HOPE if we ACT together.”



What was the timeframe for the project? From the 18th of April 2016 to the 27th of May 2016

How long was it going on for?  6 weeks

Recommended timeframe for the process from start to finish?

A slightly longer timeframe of 8 weeks is recommended to give enough time for the design process before painting. Keeping the timeframe to 8 weeks would also assist with maintaining focus and interest, which may dissipate over a longer time period.


Photo: 20160518_121352 (18 May 2016) by Trócaire via Flickr CC-BY-2.0
Photo: 20160518_121352 (18 May 2016) by Trócaire via Flickr CC-BY-2.0
  • Development education resources and activities to explore the theme of climate change and climate justice
  • Mayfield Arts Newbury House guidelines on how to paint a mural or ‘muralismo’
  • A suitable wall, primed, or primed outdoor treated marine-ply boards and yacht varnish
  • Buckets, rags, trays for mixing paint, paint brushes, small pots, ground floor sheets, and a rain cover structure if outside
  • Large tins of primary coloured (red, yellow, blue) outdoor paint, white paint, and black if using
  • Case studies of people experiencing the impacts of climate change and the actions they took in Nicaragua. These were based on the work of Trócaire’s partners, and really brought the local to global nature of climate change and climate injustice to life, creating a sense of solidarity between the participants in Skerries and those Trócaire works with in Nicaragua. Trócaire staff in Nicaragua also created an audio message for the Irish participants, including messages from children from our partner Funarte in Estelí, which was screened at the mural launch event.

Process & logistics

After returning from a teacher study trip to Nicaragua in February 2016 with with Trócaire, the principal of Milverton N.S., Johnny Tyndall, was inspired to do a mural in Skerries after visiting the mural art of Trócaire’s partner Funarte in Estelí.

  • Trócaire development education staff collaborated with Johnny to plan and carry out the project, and invited the artist Eimear McNally to lead the design and painting. Johnny got the local community on board, including support from Supervalu, Skerries Hardware, Image Depot and the Skerries Chamber of Commerce.
  • A series of facilitated half-day workshops exploring climate change and climate justice with a focus on Nicaragua and creative action with students were delivered by Trócaire.
  • Eimear McNally then facilitated design workshops to create a collaborative mural design, and the painting of the mural, which took place in Milverton N.S. on marine-ply boards.
  • Students were scheduled on Wednesdays and Saturdays in May to paint in groups of 10, with a mixture from both schools in each group to promote collaboration between the schools.
  • The finished mural was hung in a public location on the wall of Supervalue in Skerries, and launched on the 27th of May with an ‘unveiling’ event, where the young people spoke of their learning and experiences during the project.

Case study: Development Education Workshop (1/2 day)

1. Introduction

In the development education workshops we first explored how people are connected to the environment, by showing a stimulus image of a cow and discussing how we are connected to this image in our daily lives, and how it is connected to the natural environment.

2. Environmental Impact Graph

We then created an ‘environmental impact graph’ by using a large piece of string to create a simple right-angle graph axis, with the x-axis representing the impact going from ‘little’ to ‘great’, and the y-axis representing ‘how important it is to our lives’. Each participant received a photo and were asked to plot the photographs on the graph depending on how much impact they have on the environment, and how important they are to our lives (for example food products, a mobile phone, a car etc). A discussion followed focusing on the connections between the natural environment, people, and positive/negative actions, and the results of these actions.

3. Trócaire CJ Animation on Climate Change

The Trócaire CJ Animation explaining climate change was screened.

Participants were invited to keep two questions in mind while watching the video for discussion afterwards:

  • What are fossil fuels?
  • What is the carbon cycle?

Following the animation participants could choose to answer one of the two questions posed and to stand on either side of the room in groups to discuss. The group teased out, as a class, what they thought the answers to the questions were and broadened this out into to a wider discussion on the causes and effects of climate change.

4. Causes, Effects & Solutions

Participants were then asked to place the photographs from the environmental impact graph, and some additional photos, on a large drawing of a tree, placing the causes of climate change by the roots, the effects by the trunk, and the solutions/actions by the branches. This was hung on the classroom wall as visual inspiration for their mural design.

5. Nicaragua Case Study and Funarte

A map of Nicaragua was presented along with images of daily life to give an overview of where the country is, a few facts about the country, a case study of Joelle and Mariella on their farm, and the solution to the issue of climate change for them.

Joelle and Mariella live in Condega, in the ‘dry corridor’ effected by drought, and are supported by Trócaire’s partner Octupan [click here for this case study].

We then talked about the work of Funarte in Estelí, who use creative activities to support young people to explore justice issues and to share their voice through mural art; a video of their work was also shown:

6. Word Storm

In pairs, participants were asked to quickly think about words that relate to the environment, climate change and Ireland and Nicaragua – just one word each. We read out all the words and explained that these would be used to create a story for the mural with the artist Eimear McNally.

7. Visualising Action for Climate Justice

The participants engaged in a drawing activity where they used a large roll of paper to explain, through drawings, what they wanted to say to the world about climate change. Questions posed:

what have they learned today? / what images come to mind? / what are the problems? / what should the world do?

These drawings helped the students in the following workshop with Eimear McNally to come up with a design for the mural.

8. Follow-on Activities

We provided the teachers with a role play activity based on Joelle and Mariella (see attached), and the Trócaire Climate Justice video animation for them to use with the classes before the first design workshop.

Curriculum Links (Senior Primary)

  • Science: Environmental Awareness and Care; Science and the Environment
  • SPHE: Myself and the Wider World; Developing Citizenship
  • Geography: Human Environments; People and Places in Other Areas
  • Drama: Drama to Explore Feelings, Knowledge and Ideas Leading to Understanding; Exploring and Making Drama
  • Visual arts: Drawing; Making Drawings

Learning and Reflection

As the participants had already explored the theme of climate change, and heard about the Trócaire trip to Nicaragua and the effects of climate change and action through ‘muralismo’, they were knowledgeable on the issues and got involved in discussion around these themes.

Focusing on visual imagery though photographs and video to explore the theme supports a creative visual learning journey towards the final mural design and painting.

Collaborating with artist Eimear McNally in designing the DE workshop to ensure that the outputs (the photo tree, drawings and word storm) were useful for her design workshops was an important exercise as part of the project.

The variety, depth and quality of the drawings and words created by the participants reflected the high level of engagement with the theme, and their enthusiasm and excitement about the project.

Project Learning

Success and challenges

The aims of the project were achieved, which included bringing the participants on a learning journey about the effects of climate change and how everyone has the power to take action for climate justice. The project also supporting them to share their hopes for the future and raise awareness in their community through the creative medium of mural art.

The qualitative outcomes are evident in the evaluation comments from the participants, and the project outputs, including the final painting and the news reporting an

Any tips/pointers on what worked well?

Having buy-in from the local community was essential, and this was achieved because Johnny Tyndall, a local teacher and resident was behind the project. The teachers in both schools had done a lot of work in advance of the project around the theme of climate change and the young people were really excited and enthusiastic about learning more and working together, which was very important in terms of the process and also achieving the final learning outcomes and artistic outputs. Getting an artist such as Eimear McNally involved greatly enhanced the project because as well as her artistic skills she has an understanding of development education methodologies, an interest in the issue of climate change, and experience working with groups and with young people.

What were the challenges encountered? Any advice/ideas to deal with them?

We had initially planned to paint the mural on a wall in the carpark of Supervalu Skerries, but that fell through the day before painting was to begin due to unforeseen circumstances. We decided that the project should definitely go ahead, and that if painted on to boards these could be then hung in a public space, achieving the same outcomes in terms of raising awareness.

Painting on boards also allowed for painting in the school grounds, which was safer, and meant we could paint indoors when it was raining. The key learning here was to be flexible and to find different ways of achieving the project aims and objectives when challenges occurred.

Measuring impact

Participants completed an evaluation form after the project was completed, asking them questions relating to what they learned, if they gained any new skills, what further actions they want to take, and if their understanding of the world changed in any way.

The results were recorded in a project evaluation one-page report.

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