Activities available for Schools


Primary Schools Programme

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The Killarney National Park Education Centre is ideally located in The Knockreer Demesne. It is close to Killarney town and also within easy reach of a variety of habitats for a class to explore! Knockreer House provides the perfect location for primary level nature study with its safe environment, teaching laborataries and other facilities as well as the picturesque views of the lakes and mountains of the National Park.

The Education Centre is a designated Discover Primary Science Centre; a visit to us helps achieve your “Award of Excellence in Science” under the DPS scheme. To find out more about Discover Primary Science visit www.primaryscience.ie

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Programmes available include:

Primary School Nature Day

The class will visit the National Park and will participate in a wide range of nature activities which are all linked to SESE. They can investigate habitats and wildlife at first hand, use mammal traps, microscopes and pooters do pond-dipping, scavenger hunts and experiments and, if they are lucky see some of the wild animals of Irelands premier National Park.

The aim of the day is to encourage the student to explore the natural world around them and to introduce basic ecological and environmental concepts. We will also look at predator-prey relationships, food-chains and how creatures adapt to living in their environment. The activities are designed to suit all age groups and workbooks can be provided.

Visit http://www.primaryscience.ie/ds_centres_infos.php?id=7 to see a clip of film showing Freemount National School, from Co. Cork enjoying their day at the Centre.

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The precise timing for the day is flexible to allow for travelling time etc. (Cork and Limerick are within convenient travelling distance for day trips). A typical session lasts from approximately 10.30am-2.30pm

For Information please note that:

  • Groups must be accompanied by at least one adult leader (ideally one to every twenty students).
  • Accompanying leaders must remain with their group at all times and are responsible for the conduct and behaviour of the group
  • Max. group number is 30 students
  • Children are advised to bring full raingear, wellington boots and a change of clothes.
  • Please bring a packed lunch..... nature exploring can be hungry work!

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For telephone bookings please have the following information ready:

  • Number of students
  • Number of supervisors
  • Date of visit
  • Time of arrival/ departure
  • Age of group
  • Details of any special needs etc.
  • Any special requests regarding content

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Visit to the School

As an alternative to a full visit to the National Park, one of our staff can visit your school to present an interactive nature session. This will include a powerpoint presentation about on a topic of Irish nature. The presentations which are available include one on the importance of Trees, Irish Mammals, Birds, Bats and Flowers. These can be booked under “The Heritage in Schools” scheme.

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Post-Primary Schools Programmes

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"The students are still talking about how much they enjoyed it, and of course the great thing was that they were learning so much while they were having fun. Ecology is becoming a more and more important part of the leaving certificate syllabus, so to be able to cover the fieldwork so comprehensively in one day is invaluable."

Anna Walsh, Sutton Park School.

A complete range of fully guided field studies courses is available for post-primary schools visiting Killarney National Park. All courses fulfil curricula requirments and are designed to allow the student to practice a variety of field techniques.  Key concepts of ecology and geography are dealt with in depth.

Courses are available all year round and generally run from approximately 10.30am-2.30pm each day, although times can be adjusted to suit your school. Cork and Limerick are conveniently within range for day trips, and hostel accommodation is available should you wish to stay for longer.

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Examples of courses on offer include:

Leaving Cert - Habitat Study

A detailed study of a localised sandstone/limestone transition is made to examine the influence over vegetation type. Transects and quadrats are used to assess the effect of shade on ground plants (including measurement of relative humidity, light intensity, soil depth, soil pH etc.). Also Longworth small mammal traps (which have been left out overnight) will be checked, any captured animals will be examined and released, and a full explanation of capture/recapture technique will be made. A study of invertebrates is carried out using a variety of capture methods (pooter, beating trays and sweep nets) 

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Leaving Cert - Geography Fieldwork

This day is structured specifically to leave the student well prepared to answer the fieldwork question in the Leaving Certificate examination. It involves the mapping (and further study, including soil testing etc.) of an area of limestone bedrock overlain by morainic sandstone and the survey and plotting of a profile of a typical limestone 'reef'.

Leaving Cert - The Glaciation Study

involves the mapping (and further study, including soil testing etc.) of an area of limestone bedrock overlain by morainic sandstone and the survey and plotting of a profile of a typical limestone 'reef'.

Leaving Cert - The River Study

involves carrying out a number of tasks at the lower stage and the upper stage of the Owengarriff river and comparing the two sites. These tasks include velocity, hydraulic radius, wetted perimeter, bedload size, river profile and sinuosity.  A biological assessment of water quality can be carried out also, if required.

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Transition Year National Park Management Day

This day takes the form of an audio-visual show followed by a guided walk, during which time the group will have many opportunities to see and understand the dilemmas which must be confronted for the effective land management of an area such as a National Park. The day is intended to stimulate discussion and debate amongst the students, and formal fieldwork exercises do not form part of the day, but can be included if desired.

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Transition Year Habitat Study

The students will examine one habitat in depth by using a range of field techniques. Habitats available include bogland, woodland and freshwater.

Transition Year – Ecology Orienteering

For many teenage groups our 'ecology orienteering' activity has consistently proved to be a popular option. It takes the form of a scavenger hunt during which time the participants (working in pairs) will accumulate points by correctly identifying and collecting a number of plants and animals.  The highest scoring pair will win a prize. At the end of the session the importance of conservation and the role that National Parks play is discussed with the group.

Transition Year/Junior Certificate - Glaciation Study

This trip through Killarney's lakes by traditional boat and through the Gap of Dunloe by foot forms an ideal study tour for all aspects of the geology and glacial geography of the area (cost of boat trip extra).

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Junior Certificate Ecology Day

We use several different fieldwork techniques to examine a woodland habitat and the associated flora and fauna. In doing so, core concepts of ecology are introduced and illustrated. A typical day will include the use of quadrats, transects, pooters, beating trays, Longworth small mammal traps, measurement of environmental factors etc..

Introduction to Ecology

This course deals with simple ecological concepts and techniques as well as introducing the student to several different Irish habitats. It is aimed at students in their first or second year of secondary education whose experience of ecology and habitats is limited.

For Information please note that:

  • Groups must be accompanied by at least one adult leader (ideally one to every 20 students).
  • Accompanying leaders must remain with their group at all times and are responsible for the conduct and behaviour of the group.
  • Max. group number is 30 students.
  • Students and leaders are advised to bring full raingear and strong shoes or boots.
  • Wellington boots are essential for all students and leaders who are carrying out a river study.
  • Please bring a packed lunch.

For telephone bookings please have the following information ready:

  • Number of students.
  • Number of supervisors.
  • Date of visit.
  • Time of arrival/ departure.
  • Age of group.
  • Details of any special needs etc.
  • Any special requests regarding course content.

Third Level Groups

For University and College groups studying the natural sciences or conservation management, one would have to go a long way to find a more suitable location than Killarney National Park for a field trip.

The highly varied ecology of the area makes it ideal for botanical/zoological studies whilst the striking geology of the area adds a further dimension to fieldwork. The National Park itself is a classic case study of the need for and practice of environmental management. Interesting aspects include deer management, control of exotic species, management of visitor numbers, water quality etc..

Hostel accommodation is available for groups visiting the Park for educational purposes, and our staff are available if required to talk to your group about the ecology of, and management issues within Killarney National Park.

There are also many other potential study sites and tours within convenient minibus distance of Killarney for day trips. Add to this the magnificent scenery, coastline and mountains of the area and the great night-life of Killarney itself and it becomes clear why Killarney has long been a popular destination for Irish, UK and European college field trips.

Killarney National Park Education Centre has carried out a lot of work over the past number of years with the Wildlife Biology BSc students at the Institute of Technology, Tralee. Staff of the centre have been delivering modules on Habitat Studies, Land Use, Ecology, Wildlife Conservation, Botany and Biodiversity as well as leading many field trips in Killarney National Park and other parts of Ireland.

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Gathering Data from Lough Leane

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Inspecting a mist net ussed for bird ringing.

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Map-reading skills.

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Surveying a river for Freshwater Pearl Mussel

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Freshwater Pearl Mussel in the bed of the river seen through the viewer.


Teacher & Educator training

We also run a number of in-service training courses for teachers.

  • 'Exciting Ways to Teach Nature & Science' annual in-service training course for primary teachers. See below for more details.
  • Discover Primary Science teacher training courses.
  • Leaving Certificate Biology and Geography fieldwork in-service training courses.

Exciting Ways to Teach Nature & Science

This course is approved by the Department of Education. 

"Exciting Ways to Teach Nature & Science" is primarily outdoor-based, and is intended to enlighten the participants as to the basics of ecology, to experiment with various nature activities and to explore a variety of habitats which can be used for nature study. On completing the course the participant should have a broad knowledge of the natural world and a wealth of stimulating ideas for nature study sessions for children. 

The course is based entirely within Killarney National Park and is run by the Killarney National Park Education Centre, which specialises in outdoor nature study. Staff are experienced tutors and ecologists. Each day comprises a brief indoor workshop followed by an outdoor field visit - total course time 4 hours per day. Each day's activities are finished by 2.00pm, so you'll have plenty of free time to explore Killarney and its environs. 

The course is non-residential, although Killarney, as one might expect, has a wealth of accommodation to suit all budgets!  For information on accommodation it is suggested that you might contact the Killarney Tourist information Office on 064 6631633 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Participants may be required to drive short distances to the locations of field sessions, so a car would be an advantage, but not essential as we can put you in touch with drivers with space. Registration takes place on the first day at Knockreer House but booking a place is essential as spaces are limited.


Discover Primary Science Award

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Killarney National Park Education Centre has been a designated Discover Science Centre since 2004. The activities included in the Primary School Nature Day support the SESE curriculum and have been vetted by DPS.

A visit to a Discover Centre is one of the criteria for schools wishing to achieve an Award in Science Excellence.

For information on Discover Primary Science & Awards in Science, Go to the official website below or call us and we can fill you in.

www.primaryscience.ie