The Wool in School education initiative, conducted by fibre artist Lorna McCormack, teaches children how to develop sustainable practices, writes.
The youth of today are our future policy makers and decision makers. Raising our children with the right values and investing in their understanding of sustainable practices is important for positive continuity of growth in the natural world.
Making attempts to encourage and recognise sensible ways to actively promote healthy living can easily start at home with a compost heap, a vegetable patch and a trip to the recycling centre.
Teaching by example, however, can have its limitations when an eight-year-old watches as we sometimes forgo breaking up our recycling or other practical elements of supporting sustainability. While our intentions are valid, our practices may not be solid.
For this reason, school projects and compelling community developments through our libraries and clubs encourage habitual practices to improve the health of our world.
One such programme, recently developed and welcomed into our primary schools, is Wool in School.
Launched by Meath fibre artist, Lorna McCormack, in 2019, she aims to bridge the gap between the theoretical understanding of the sustainable use of wool and the practical impact it has on our communities and our world.
Having spent the past five years working solely with wool on artistic merit by creating works of art, clothing, gifts and portraits, McCormack says, “Wool is an amazing medium to work with.
“It’s also very forgiving, allowing you to rectify mistakes or recreate them. It sometimes has a mind of its own which is fascinating and exciting to see something interesting unfold.”
Having manipulated wool for many years in various methods, McCormack, who comes from a heritage of crafts women, found her connection with wool as a fibre artist came as naturally to her as the fibre itself.
“Wool is renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and sustainable,” she says.
With so many benefits for safeguarding the future, wool growers actively work to safeguard the environment and improve efficiency, endeavouring to make the wool industry sustainable for future generations.
Her love and respect for this natural fibre has developed into sharing, educating and exploring the unique traits of wool with a younger generation.
As a mother of four children, ranging from the teenage years down to preschool, she has seen first-hand how connected children can be with the natural world and its sustainable resources.
"Encouraging and educating the next generation about wool as a safe solution in comparison to manmade fibres is quite an important topic these days,” says McCormack.
“Showing children the exciting uses wool will have in their future, as we move to a sustainable and eco-friendly environment, is crucial. Wool can naturally protect you from UV rays, regulate body temperature and, in our worrying climate, it does not promote the growth of bacteria.
“We also need to educate children about other natural fibres like flax, which is one of the oldest textile fibres. Flax fibres are made into woven fabrics, laces for apparel and household furnishings. Lower grades are used for products requiring strength and the ability to withstand moisture such as
, twine, fire hose, bagging, industrial sewing thread, and fishnet.
Natural fibres have a place in the past but even more so in the future.
With so many benefits, Wool in School, with the support of various Irish mills and businesses across Ireland, are bringing this natural resource to the forefront of the conversation of sustainability.
As a unique education resource, children are giving the opportunity to learn about the uses of sheep and alpaca fibre by experiencing various types of wool, by exploring the traditional method of carding wool, spinning on a drop spindle and weaving on an Ashford loom.
Exploring the process, its properties and uses, connects children with the history of this natural fibre and the permanence of this material in our modern world.
“The world is moving so fast,” says McCormack.
“It is more important than ever to slow down and rethink about our core values. Having a circular economy whereby we aim to eliminate waste in favour of continually using the natural resources available to us, is vital to change. Wool is becoming a big part of this change.
“With Wool in School, we are showing children the benefits of wool through interactive, informative workshops and our innovative and unique Wool in School trollies. We are linking the past, present and future of wool.
“We have had a huge response from schools and creches across Ireland. Children are already learning so much about their environment within the curriculum. Wool in School gives teachers an added hands-on approach by providing resource packs for the schools taking part.
This allows children to actively explore different wool, fibres and objects made from wool which are not just your woolly jumper. We encourage children to explore this natural fibre and investigate new uses for wool and how the use of technology can also help with this.
“There are no limits to the benefits of wool maximizing the positive impact of innovation and technology and minimizing the impact on the Earth.
“Teaching our children about wool, its benefits and purposeful properties, will encourage less waste and a more recyclable approach to wool. By changing our attitudes, we can encourage and support a new era. A future of sustainable solutions.”
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