Irish Workshops and Tours

Origins of the Irish Academic Enrichment Workshops

Read about how the Irish Academic Workshops started.
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In 2003, after a successful literary tour of London, I was asked to organized a similar study tour in Ireland by several Wesleyan Graduate Liberal Studies students. After a week in Dublin, we headed west to Sligo where I first began working with Keith and Debbie McNair of Discover Sligo/Discovery Tours. They organized a unique tour of off-the-beaten-track experiences, including a Yeats Supper, sunrise at a Megalithic tomb site, and a cookout on Church Island in Lough Gill. 

During that week and subsequently, Keith and I began discussing how to take better educational and cultural advantage of what is certainly the greatest classroom in the world: Ireland. To encourage students to come to Ireland and experience its riches, we devised the idea to first invite their teachers to a series of academic enrichment workshops.

The Irish Academic Enrichment Workshops Begin

Read about the concept behind the AEWs.
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In the summer of 2005 we launched our first workshop on Literature, attracting more than a dozen American teachers from secondary schools throughout the U.S., as well as spouses, children, and others interested in participating in an educationally-based Irish travel experience. With the assistance of Tom Solter, a teacher from St. Paul’s School, we provided an overview of modern Irish literature with individual morning sessions devoted to poetry, drama, short story, and the novel, followed by excursions into Yeats Country and beyond.

The following summer we expanded our offerings to include workshops in Irish performing arts (music, dance, and drama), peace studies, and history. In the summer of 2007 we added creative writing and photography workshops, as well as a special workshop scheduled to coincide with the annual Bloomsday celebrations in Dublin. Again, participants came from schools throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Our proposed schedule for 2008 is our most ambitious. Besides offering the Bloomsday, literature, and history workshops, we have organized multiple workshops in painting, photography, music, dance, drama, and creative writing into a single week to encompass a full-scale weeklong Irish arts celebration and festival.

As the academic director, my job has been to oversee the content and the instruction of each workshop and coordinate both the classroom activities and the program of excursions and social activites. Our philosophy has been to provide exceptional teachers in unusual settings, as well as to offer interactions and experiences that one simply cannot get on other tours or on one’s own. Faculty members have included author and folklorist Joe McGowan, noted historian Lord Paul Bew, writers Jamie O’Neill, Brian Leyden, Orfhlaith ni Chonail, and Anne O’Connell, musician Junior Davey, and photographers Steve Rogers and Ulrich Schwier. 

Highlights from the Last Five Years of Workshops

Read about memorable workshop experiences.
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Over the years there have been so many highlights. Here are some:
  • an afternoon spent with a Shanachie, a traditional Irish storyteller
  • literature and creative writing sessions in Dolly’s Cottage, a 150-year-old thatched cottage
  • a performance by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill at the 100-seat Coleman Centre
  • meeting at Stormont in Belfast with representatives of the four major political parties in Northern Ireland
  • a hike up Knocknarea, followed by a seaweed bath and re-hydration at the Stand Bar
  • a music and dance performance aboard the Rose of Inishfree cruising Lough Gill
  • finding a Mass rock off a country lane near the Gleniff Horseshoe
  • following "Leopold Bloom" on the streets of Dublin to the actual sites of the action inUlysses

Tours

Other offerings.
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As a result of the workshops, we have organized a number of student tours of Ireland featuring homestays on both sides of the border and performances throughout Ireland. Like the workshops, our student tours are designed to provide participants with unique opportunities and experiences.You Tube - Palos Verdes High School tour of Northern Ireland, Spring 2008