Junk Kouture: an opportunity for inclusive education in Ballymahon

Junk Kouture

Art teacher Rachel Ryan and students Katie Farrell, Katie Quinn and Siobhan Kilduff from Mercy Secondary School Ballymahon

The Junk Kouture competition has provided an excellent opportunity this year for an inclusion project between the special inclusive class for students, who live with ASD, and the mainstream students at Mercy Secondary School Ballymahon.

Each year since the introduction of the Special Inclusive Class, the school has looked for an opportunity to get mainstream students working collaboratively and inclusively with the Narnia (the name of the Special Inclusive Class) students.

ALSO READ: Longford students turn 'junk into kouture'

The project has once again proven to be a great success and students enjoyed working together as a team to produce a trendy piece of fashion, made from recycled materials.

Last year, Mercy Ballymahon entered a competition called ‘Digital Champions’ and they were crowned ‘Digital Champions 2018’, winning the RTE competition with their one minute ‘Autism Awareness’ video.

The School Digital Champion Programme was launched as part of the National Digital Strategy to promote digital adoption and encourage the productive use of technology by students.

The programme creates an interest in STEM and developing an aptitude for digital and ICT at all levels in secondary schools.

The programme provides students with a platform to drive digital adoption outside the walls of the classroom by connecting with local enterprises and the wider community.

This exciting programme also enables students to develop their creativity, critical-thinking and communications skills.

Mercy Ballymahon saw this as an exciting opportunity to create awareness of what life is like for those who live with autism and an opportunity for mainstream students to work with the Narnia students to produce a really excellent piece of work. The winning video can be viewed on the school website.

This year, Mercy Ballymahon focused on Bank of Ireland Junk Kouture. The competition is designed to take elements such as fashion, design, engineering and environmental sustainability and transform them into a creative contest like no other.

When the TY students joined up with the Narnia students to discuss possibilities for their inclusion project, they decided that they would promote ‘autism awareness’ and understanding.

Their outfit is made from left over carpet underlay and floorboard underlay, but the material that pulls the whole outfit together is the use of old jigsaws re-fashioned as a detail on the outfit.

The ‘jigsaw piece’ has been well documented as a symbol for autism awareness and so it was the perfect detail for the outfit.

Those who understand autism will know that people who live with autism, sometimes find it hard to understand the social norms that most us accept as given and often feel that they don’t quite ‘fit’.

The Ballymahon students found that through their work and with a little understanding and support, everybody can be included and enjoy all aspects life.

When coming up with a name for the costume, there was little dispute when ‘The Puzzle of Life’ was suggested.

They chose this title because it indicates that life is a puzzle and without one piece it would not be complete.

Art teacher Rachel Ryan and students Katie Farrell, Katie Quinn and Siobhan Kilduff are delighted that ‘The Puzzle of Life’ has made it through to the Junk Kouture Regional Final (also see report on Page 10).

The students say the project has been great fun, with lots of opportunities to work together in a creative and inclusive way. They intend to use their outfit to create more awareness and understanding for Autism by modelling it at upcoming school events.

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