The Differences we share

How the story of some groundbreaking reconciliation work amongst pupils in the town is being taken to a global stage in California
The Shared Education partnership between Lurgan College, St Ronan’s College and Lurgan Junior High School is excited to announce that we have won a global competition with Geography students from each of the three schools. This competition win will see some staff and pupils travel this July to the Esri Users Conference in San Diego to represent the schools and tell something of the story of shared education in the town.
Back on a cold, frosty day in January, around 40 pupils from the three schools travelled around the town various areas of the town to do a survey of their perceptions of safety. They visited the public spaces in the town, but also went into areas that some of them had never been in before, areas associated with the ‘other side’. 

What was different about this survey, though, was that the pupils used a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect their data. Using a survey app on their phones, the pupils recorded their perceptions of safety. This app uploaded their responses to the cloud and so the pupils were able to pull these responses into digital maps on the computers on their return to school. This enabled them better to understand how each other felt about places all over the town, and to explore why they might feel differently about different areas.Robert Logan, Geography teacher in Lurgan Junior High School said, “It was extremely insightful to observe the dynamic of the group on the day of the fieldtrip. As the young people moved around the town that they have grown up in, it was at times very clear how uneasy they were in different spaces. The beauty of this project is that it enabled us to represent those feelings on the maps and allow the pupils the opportunity to digest this information, and when back in school together to understand and discuss the meaning behind it.”

Esri Ireland, the company we worked with to do this pilot programme, was so impressed with the use of their technology to explore the issues of sectarianism and cross community work that they nominated our project for the prestigious Ersi users conference, a conference of around 20,000 people who use the GIS technology from all over the world. We were thrilled to hear that we won, and have the incredible honour of being the first schools outside of the USA to be given the schools slot in this conference. We will be sharing the stage with the keynote speaker, Jane Goodall, and being live streamed across the world.

This is truly an amazing opportunity and fitting recognition for the work that has been going on these past years with the young people in the town to improve understanding and build bridges of relationship and friendship. Alistair Hamill, Head of Shared Education and Head of Geography in Lurgan College, said, ‘It is exciting to put the powerful story of peace building that the three schools have been involved in in front of this global audience, and through the use of GIS, to well and truly put Lurgan on the global map as an example of what it can do.’ Hannah Murtagh, Geography teacher in St Ronan’s said, “I’m honoured to be part of this project and collaboration with Esri Ireland and very excited about the opportunities this amazing journey will bring to the young people in the town of Lurgan.”