Open All Year
16 Mar to 31 Oct
0900hrs - 1800hrs
1 Nov to 15 Mar
1000hrs - 1600hrs
The Castle Courtyard Café
April ~ October
The Discovery Gift Shop
Open every day of year
Discover Primary Science Educational Tours in Birr Castle Gardens
€10.00 per child ~ Journey through Astronomy
With the significant changes being introduced through the new science curriculum, the emphasis is on taking science out of the textbooks and the classroom and into everyday experiences & practical activities of investigation, experiments and analysis. Ireland’s Historic Science Centre has taken the opportunity to play a role in working with teachers and schools in celebrating our scientific heritage and fostering, inspiring and encouraging young scientists of the future. We aim to achieve this by providing a fun, interactive tour through Ireland’s Historic Science Centre and through the gardens to end at The Great Telescope.
Format of the Discover Primary Science Tour
We like the children to get a SENSE OF PLACE. We’ll show them a map of Ireland with Birr clearly shown and ask them to show us where they’ve come from. We’ll then distribute work sheet booklets which supplement today’s lessons.
The Tour Begins:
We begin our tour in the first gallery in the Science Centre. Once here we’ll ask a few simple questions about the castle and the telescope to gage the children’s level of knowledge. Questions like ‘Why is Birr Castle so famous?’ and ‘What would you use a telescope for?’ are usually a good place to start. We then move into the second gallery. Here we explain what materials were needed to build it, how it was built and how it works. We can show them the scale model of the 1.2m mirror. We can explain to them that the Birr Telescope isn’t like any telescope they may have at home. It’s so big that the 18m wooden tube and massive support walls are constructed in the grounds of the castle which we will show them shortly.
Movin’ On Up:
After we’ve given them some basic information about the telescope we’ll move upstairs into the third gallery. Up here they can see a scale replica of one of the telescope’s viewing galleries. After they’ve had a chance to look through the replica eyepiece we head into the fourth gallery. It’s here that we show them the neighbourhood that they may not have known they lived in, The Solar System! We’ll ask them why we couldn’t live on another planet and if there is life on any of them.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Mary Rosse, the third Earl’s wife, was a pioneer photographer. Lens and mirrors have many uses in the modern world around us, here we ask the children to give us some examples. Depending on the age of the group we can explain how the lens camera worked.
Charles Parsons developed the steam turbine still in use today. What other ways are there of generating power? Here we talk about different types of energy (Wind, wave, solar, nuclear, turf, oil, etc.) and explain the difference between renewable & non renewable sources of energy. This helps the children understand the importance of energy conservation and how they can do their part. Did you know that at the age of 9 Charles Parsons built his very own helicopter 50 years before the helicopter was invented!
Down To Earth
Now we take the children back downstairs into the final gallery. We use this time to recap on what they’ve just seen and heard. Down here we also have a world map that shows where plant seeds have been collected and grown here in the Birr Gardens.
The Not So Secret Garden
Now we’re ready to set forth into the 120 acre garden. It’s filled with exotic plants and trees from all over the planet. If it happens to be raining our guides are still happy to brave the elements in the name of science but, if you’d prefer, this section can always be completed indoors.
We’ll travel briefly through the gardens to show the children the giant ‘Great Telescope’ and how the Earl needed a head for heights when using it! The telescope was a ground breaking design for its time, as it was the largest in the world for over 70 years, and remains very famous still today!
Bridge Over Camcor Waters
No trouble here! Our final stop is the suspension bridge – one of the oldest in the world. We’ll tell the children briefly about it then have some questions and answers time, and no they can’t cross it!
Who is this tour suitable for?
The DPS tour is designed to support the Primary School’s Science curriculum. It is a fun tour aimed to get children to question their surroundings. However even adults have found it fun! For those slightly older requiring a bit more of a challenge we have also developed a Junior Science Trail which is geared mainly for secondary aged students.
Length of Tour:
If you’re Interested:
All groups must be pre-booked at least 2 weeks in advance.
For bookings and further information, please contact:
Birr Castle Demesne and Ireland’s Historic Science Centre, Birr, County Offaly, Ireland
Birr Castle Seasonal highlights
Click on the images to view our seasonal highlights photo gallery