Science Week at St. Columba’s

This week at St. Columba’s there are a range of events to mark national ‘Science Week‘. Every day this week our beloved ‘Daily Notice’ will feature a science fact to engage the brain and encourage our pupils and staff to #StopAndAsk (which everyone is encouraged to do on social media). Our library has an excellent display on the best science books, both fiction and non-fiction, within the 15,000 volumes on the shelves. The pupils can take part in a Science Photo Competition or Science Joke Competition (a live mic for the best jokes is scheduled for Friday). Every year group will have a Science Kahoot Challenge at lunch time and Transition Year will have a science themed movie night. There are also a series of art in science projects in all labs and some lunchtime demos, including live dissections in the biology lab.

Please follow the events on the College’s social media platforms – Twitter & Facebook – and #StopAndAsk. (The video below was created especially for Science Week 2017 to kick start the #StopAndAsk initiative).

Senior Debating Team News

Form V pupil Harry Oke writes this update on Senior Debating in the College

It is great to know debating and public speaking has become something greatly valued in St Columba’s. So far this term we have been involved in our own in-house Debating Competition, the Oxford Schools Debating Competition, the European Youth Parliament and the Concern Debates.  The first round of the Senior House Debating Competition began September 30th with the motion, “This house would ban users of performance enhancing drugs for life”. The line-up was Glen against Hollypark, Tibradden & Beresford against Stackallan and Iona versus Gwynn. Glen, Stackallan and Iona were victorious but who knows what the future will holds for all houses in round two of the debates in the second half of the Michaelmas term.

The 2017-18 Concern Debates have also begun and St Columba’s put forward a team led by Jack Stokes. Unfortunately, we were not able to carry the motion “To end hunger, the world must embrace GMOs” against a formidable team from Tallaght Community School. The most important thing from all these debates irrespective of winning or losing is what you learn and gain from the experience. Debating informs us about things that are happening in our world. It affirms or challenges our original beliefs and encourages us to question everything. Debating makes us use what makes us different from all other animals, our minds. I deeply encourage anyone to give debating and public speaking a try because it is worth it. It makes us act instead of being observers and it makes us assertive. It makes us independent and there is nothing better than being your own person!

Junior Debating Team

Public speaking and debating are important part of the College’s extracurricular programme. Below, Form III pupil Phoebe Grennell gives an account of the progress of our Junior Debating Team over the past month.

Last month the Junior Debating Team attended a debating workshop in Belvedere College. The pupils who took part were Emma Hinde, Raphaella Ihuma, Charlotte Moffitt, Maybelle Rainey, Ailbhe Matthews, Éile Ní Chíchnáin and myself, Phoebe Grennell.

When we arrived at Belvedere College, we were warmly welcomed and were taken to a large lecture hall where we met up with some debating teams from other schools. Many of us, myself included, had never debated before. The aim of the workshop was to introduce us to debating and to give us some introductory skills and tips.

A kind lady introduced herself and confidently started speaking to us about debating. She gave us some good tips and advice on how to write speeches and to deliver them. We learned that the objective of a debate is to prove how the principles and practicalities of your side of the motion is true. We were given some tips.

  1. Keep speeches to a minimum, no more than four minutes long.
  2. Never read your speech, engage with your audience with eye contact.
  3. The speech should present a cohesive case containing three main points of information (POIs).
  4. Each POI needs the same amount of time.
  5. Analyse and research each POI before the debate. This will involve asking why the points are relevant and then answering this question. This will help address counter arguments.
  6. Use persuasive language.
  7. Give lots of examples but no personal antidotes.
  8. Use structure when flagging points (a) say what you are going to say (2) say it (3) say what you’ve said.
  9. Use structure when flagging points – say what you are going to say, say it and then say what you’ve said.
  10. Remain objective and calm

This workshop was interesting and we learned a lot. For anyone getting involved for the first time, debating helps improve confidence in public speaking as well as being a good way to keep us up to date with current events and form opinions about them. Our first debate followed two weeks later in UCD where we were able to show what we learnt from the workshop and were able to use these tips in our debates. The topic for our next debate is ‘Why there should be a sugar tax’. It has been a good experience so far and I look forward to using these skills in the future.

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Junior Certificate & JCSA Results 2017

Congratulations to all our pupils who received their Junior Certificate results on Wednesday. The overall results were excellent, including a set of straight A’s from one of our pupils. In all, 84% of all examination papers were taken at Higher Level with just under 20% of all exam results an A at Higher Level. 50% of all grades were either an A or B at Higher Level with a total of 72% of all papers sat achieving an A, B or C at Higher Level – tremendous results.

This was also the first year the JCSA (the successor to the Junior Certificate) was examined, albeit only in one subject so far, English. The grading is completely different to the Junior Certificate, and so cannot be compared. 88% of our candidates took the exam at Higher Level, and 89% of them achieved one of the three highest grades, ‘Distinction’, ‘Higher Merit’ and ‘Merit’. They also undertook (as all pupils will eventually do) Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs) in oral presentations and a writing portfolio, and the results of these will be presented on the Student Profile of Achievement. Other subjects, starting here with Science and Irish, are now moving onto this system, with the dual-system ending by 2022.

The pupils celebrated their success with a full class trip to Causey Farm in Co. Meath, where they got to trudge through the mud, milk cows, bake traditional Irish soda bread, had a céilí (an Irish dancing session) and much more.

See some photos from the trip below.

Leaving Certificate Results 2017

Congratulations to our candidates who received their Leaving Certificate results yesterday. They achieved an average points score of 444 per candidate across all subjects. This year the grading system has changed completely, which makes comparisons with previous years impossible, but this is certainly a most pleasing result.

As with last year, two pupils gained the maximum 625 points. 82% of papers were taken at Higher Level, with 16% of all papers at all levels being H1s, and half of all papers at all levels being H1, H2 or H3.

Well done to all, and of course to their teachers too. We wish our leavers the very best in their third level applications and in the years ahead.

CanSat Team Win Silver in Bremen

Congratulations to the St. Columba’s College CANSAT team who took home second place at the European finals in Bremen in July. After winning gold in the Irish finals back in May, the team travelled to Germany full of confidence, despite this being St. Columba’s first time entering the competition. It soon became clear that the competition was fierce, with the Transition Year pupils from St. Columba’s easily the youngest competitors. That did not deter them, however, and despite a parachute failure on their launch they took home the silver medal. Congratulations to all the team and their teacher Ms Hennessey. They did the College proud.

To find out more about their excellent work, throughout the year, watch this video here or visit their website to check on their work here.  They have also created a YouTube channel with a number of videos giving an overview of the project. The more likes on the videos the better!

Transition Year English Evening

On Tuesday last we held the 24th annual TY English Evening in the Big Schoolroom. The guest speaker this time was Professor Colin Graham, Head of the English Department at Maynooth University.

Eight pieces from the recent Work Portfolio were read out by their writers: Ross Magill (his first Primary school); David White (the nature of ‘failure’); Lucy Maher (‘A Picky Eater’); Toby Green (Blanche Dubois’s diary); Anna Bofferding (Donald Trump and World War III); Andre Stokes (a poem called ‘Young Musician’); Casper v d Schuelenberg (‘The Oldest Person I Know’ – the Holocaust survivor Marko Feingold); William Zitzmann (‘Thought Bubbles’, assisted by Grace Goulding).

Professor Graham commented with great attentiveness and sympathy on these pieces, saying how much he was impressed by the writing on display. Each piece had made him think of another writer. He stressed the vital importance of a multiplicity of voices in today’s world, and how important it was that young people lead this way (in many ways his own generation has failed them).  He quoted from Sam Riviere’s controversial book of poems Kim Kardashian’s Wedding.

Finally, the Premier Awards were announced after this year’s course: Ross Magill, Helen Crampton, Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, Catherine Butt, Caspar von der Schülenburg, Julius Reblin, JiWoo Park, William Zitzmann, Toby Green, Isabelle Townshend, Sophia von Wedel, Nicole Birlain Zeigler.


TY prize presentation evening

The final presentation evening of the TY year was held last night in the BSR. Mr McCarthy gave a review of the year and commended all on their positive attitude and considerable achievements. All told it was an extremely productive and enjoyable year.

TY Subject Prize Winners

Geography and Business

Julius Reblin

Chemistry and Religion

Harry Oke


Claire Schuijt


William Zitzmann


Teresa Clemente


Sophie von Wedel

Biology and Economics

Caspar von der Schulenburg

French, Maths and Latin

James Park


Hanna Guelich


Jeanne Levesque

History, English, Irish and Classical Studies

Catherine Butt


Columban Award Scheme

Winner: Catherine Butt

Spirit of Transition Year

Winners: Grace Goulding and Isabelle Townshend

TY Modern Languages evening

The sixth annual Transition Year Evening for Modern Languages was held on Tuesday evening in the BSR. Twelve pupils gave presentations in French and Spanish on subjects including La moda española, Le terrorisme en France, Le pain au chocolat, Le Gard, Angers, La Suisse romande, Le Mont Saint-Michel and l’Art Nouveau. There were also readings of poems in German, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Korean, Catalan, Russian, Yoruba and Irish. The night was capped off with an entertaining video from Mr Morris’s French set about life at St Columba’s.

Prizes were awarded as follows:
1st place: David White for Mon séjour en Normandie (winner of the Dr Alyn Stacey Cup)
We are extremely grateful to Dr Alyn Stacey and her team from TCD who adjudicated and provided such valuable feedback. The judges were extremely impressed by the depth of research and quality of language of all the presentations.

Victorious Cansat Team Prepare for Europe

The St. Columba’s College CanSat Crew, ably led by Ms. Hennessy, recently won the national final and will represent Ireland in the European final in Bremen, Germany, next June. The team update us on their preparations for the European final here. 

 CanSat is a simulation of a real satellite, integrated within the volume and shape of a soft drink can. The challenge for us was to fit all the major subsystems found in a satellite, such as power, sensors and a communication system, into this minimal volume. During the national competition our can was launched to an altitude of 400m by a rocket and our mission began –  to collect scientific data and achieve a safe landing.

This project has given us a unique opportunity to gain practical experience of a real space project. We designing the CanSat, selecting its missions, integrating the components, tested and calibrated our senors,  prepared for launch and then analysed the data. We them had to present our findings to the judges who were extremely impressed with our knowledge, application and most of all team work.

Following our success in the national competition we are now busy preparing for the European competition. ESA recently announced this year location and the team of 8 (William Zitzmann, Jiwoo Park, Caroline Meincke, Leonard Lopez, Harry Oke, Teresa Clemente, Ted Johnson and Blas Calatayud) will be travelling to the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM), at the University of Bremen, Germany. The competition campaign will take place from 28 June until 2 July 2017 where we will be competing against 16 other teams from around Europe including – Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Romania, the Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, Switzerland and the UK.

While we wait for our new sensors and GPS module to arrive we are carrying out additional research and working hard on our Pre-Launch Report (PLR) which must be submitted to ESA in early June.

The European CanSat competition is only one of ESA’s initiatives to help young people increase their literacy and competence in STEM disciplines and inspire them to pursue a career in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. We are delighted to have made it this far and looking forward to representing Ireland in June.

CanSat Team

Form Prizes 2016-17

 FORM PRIZES 2016-17 (these are based on the results of College examinations so far this year).

Congratulations to:-

  • SIXTH FORM: Douglas Boyd Crotty, Ciara Gumsheimer, Juliane Hastedt, Courtney McKee, Rafael Mendes.
  • FIFTH FORM: Sasha Cole, Richard Gao, Friedrich Hastedt, Nyla Jamieson, Nathalie Verwijs.
  • FOURTH FORM: Catherine Butt, Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, Ji Woo Park, Julius Reblin, Casper von der Schulenburg.
  • THIRD FORM: Sam Lawrence, Eliza Somerville, Tania Stokes.
  • SECOND FORM: Diego Casasus Benitez, Éile Ní Chianáin, Aurora Higgins Jennings, Charlotte Moffitt.
  • FIRST FORM: Tom Casey, Emma Hinde, Caleb Swanepoel.
  • PRIMARY: Carl Krenski, Kaley Song.


Transition Year Academic Prize 2017

Congratulations to Catherine Butt, from Hollypark House, on winning the Transition Year Academic Prize last night. Catherine fought off stiff competition from four of her peers from Form IV, presenting her recent research on theories of personality psychology. As well as displaying a clear understanding of the topic, Catherine demonstrated her ability to apply her knowledge to various scenarios. She also dealt with the clever questions from the judge, Mr. Alan Cox of Templecarrig School in Greystones, and from the audience. It was a close decision with only 5 marks separated the five speakers in the scoring in the end.  Many thanks to the other speakers on the night too – Toby Green (Ireland’s mother & baby homes), James Park (artificial intelligence), Julius Reblin (autonomous cars & cashless society) and Grace Goulding (human trafficking). A final thank you to Mr. Cox for taking the time to attend and for providing excellent feedback to all the speakers.

CanSat project


Many congratulations to Ms Hennessy and her team of fourth formers on winning the regional CanSat competition in DIT Kevin St. yesterday. Those involved were James Park, William Zitzmann, Leonard Lopez ,Caroline Meincke, Harry Oke, Ted Johnson, Grigory Kryukov, Blas Calatayud, Teresa Clemente, Sinclair Jones , Alex Sigurvinsson, Jaime Segui, Marie Bleyl and Santiago Puelles. They have been working very hard over the past few months in preparation for the day.

Cansat in Europe is an initiative run by the European Space Agency (ESA). It is run across schools in Ireland and Europe and is aimed at second level pupils interested in space technology. Cansat is a simulation of a satellite, recording information integrated into a 330ml soft drinks can. The main challenge is to fit all the necessary electronic components – power system, sensors and radio communications needed in the can to record information and survive the conditions of a launch. The Cansat is then launched to an altitude of a few hundred metres by a rocket or dropped from a quadcopter, kite or balloon and its mission begins: to carry out a scientific experiment and land safely.

Their efforts were rewarded by winning the regional final and earning a place in the national finals which will be held in Cork on April 27th -28th .


Part of the project work involves education and outreach. To facilitate this the team have created a Website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter account (which was used on the day to chart progress in the competition).

You can follow their progress http://scc-cansat2017.weebly.com

Ciara Gumsheimer

Many congratulations to Ciara Gumsheimer who has been offered a place to read Economics at Downing College, Cambridge. Ciara sat an entrance exam and attended two interviews, before being accepted for one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge University.

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Debating final

Ciara Murray reviews last Saturday’s debating final.

Saturday nights riveting Senior House Debating final ended in victory for Gwynn’s Douglas Boyd-Crotty, Henry Carroll and Ivan Moffit. Hollypark is delighted to have made it to the final and, despite being understandably disappointed with our loss, recognise that Gwynn was deserving of their win. Unlike last year’s house singing competition, we are not claiming to have been “robbed”.

Douglas’ engaging, humorous and powerful speech earned him best speaker. His teammates Henry and Ivan gave similar deliveries, ruthless in their evaluation of Obama’s presidency and bold in their statements, such as that he was the ‘worst ever American president’. While this may be true, it’s no secret that Dr Banister has a soft spot for Russia, making it likely that Gwynn’s references to the improvement in American/Russian relations may have won them a few extra points?

The Hollypark team were equally as strong in their performance, questioning the reliability of Gwynn’s sources and quick to retort to points of order. As mentioned by the Hollypark team of Ciara Gumsheimer, Courtney McKee and Ciara Dempsey, unlike Obama, Trump has the advantage of becoming president during a period of economic growth. Being an American and a loyal supporter of Barack Obama, Courtney was particularly passionate in her opposition to the motion that ‘Donald Trump will introduce better policies than Barack Obama did’.

There was a clear divide in the audience, with evident loyalty from the girls and boys houses. Points of order were heated and when questions were taken from the floor junior pupils were keen to participate; there were even a few questions strategically planted in the audience! As Hollypark’s team was composed solely of sixth years, we would encourage younger students to take part in debating next year as it is a really enjoyable and beneficial experience. Mr Brett was critical of those who read directly from their scripts, pointing out that it is essential for debaters to engage with the audience; bear this in mind future debaters!

TY History

Monday, 5th December, Ms Duggan’s Transition Year History students took part in a project where we learned about an emblematic battle of the 1916 Rising, the Battle of Mount Street Bridge (http://mountstreet1916.ie), partially through using an augmented reality app.

The project is a collaboration between researchers at Maynooth University and Trinity College, the Humanities Virtual World Consortium  and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. The project team and collaborators include military historians, ballistic experts, architects, digital humanists, developers, and virtual heritage specialists, who have been investigating the site of the battle, to test both ‘canonical’ accounts of the engagement and new, rival hypotheses. The aim is for students to use the app that has been specifically developed to interrogate canonical accounts of the battle and test competing hypotheses.

Catherine Butt writes: We went to the Lower Argyle straight after Chapel. We were given an introductory talk by Professor Susan Schriebamnn and Dr Costas Papadapoulos. After they explained how the app worked we assembled into four groups, each of which were given an envelope (and a tablet with the app on it), with information on certain aspects of the battle. For example, my group was learning about the men that were fighting against the Irish rebels in the 1916 Easter Rising, the Sherwood Foresters.

We logged on, opened our envelopes and set to work. First, we had to scan a picture to find out what we were doing. Then, after watching the video, we had to use the sources given to us by the app to fill out a fact file on the type of men who took part in the battle. We then watched a video about how the men were recruited. Next we used primary sources given to us in the envelopes to find more facts about the men. In the envelope we were also given questions we had to answer and presenters cards. After we had finished finding out all the information, it was time for the groups to present their findings. There was a map at the top of the lower argyle and this aided us in our presentation. I liked this as it was nice to have a visual aid to help us to really see what happened. I really enjoyed this activity as I really love learning about Irish history. I love learning about my country and how far it has come in the last century. I also loved using mixed media to learn, it helped me to remember most of the information I encountered. I very much enjoyed being part of the development of this app and look forward to working with the team again.

Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Awards

Yesterday Tania Stokes from Third Form was presented with her third prize in the Junior section of the annual national Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. Her poem, Metaphorest, is below. Pictured, Tania and the other winners with the poet and adjudicator Noel Monaghan.

Many congratulations!

‘Metaphorest’ by Tania Stokes

The springtime garden was in bloom,
Pansies and cosmos, tulips and roses,
Ivy clambering up the trellis.
Purples, pinks and whites and yellows
Surrounded me, as I sat on the deck.
The sunlight filtered through the eucalyptus
And I used to go to far-off places;
I could sometimes hear the sea.

One day, you floated here on the breeze,
Planting yourself into my life.
The garden was never quite the same
Once you began to spread,
Your brambles tangling, choking the competition.
Shadows fell over the house,
As you rose up to dominate it all,
Holding me in your thorny grasp.

You had taken over completely.

The wind changed, come Autumn
When you blossomed into something richer.
You finally brought forth your sweetness,
As ripe blackberries sprung up everywhere.
Each one was a memory full of flavour,
And as we shared them, I knew
That you had taken root in my heart.

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European Day of Languages

Every year around this time in September the European Day of Languages is celebrated. It is an ideal occasion to raise the awareness of modern languages and the department has organised many different activities for all age groups. There are treasure hunts and quizzes, bake-offs and songs, menus and videos all highlighting the wide cultural variety contained in languages. Douglas Boyd Crotty won the sixth form quiz, Ms Smith’s TY group won the fourth form prize and Edna Johnston won the first form treasure hunt.