The Heartstone Project Northern Ireland is a Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards Schools' community relations project. The project is funded by the Boards in partnership with the European Regional Development Fund and DENI. The Heartstone Project Northern Ireland seeks to promote and develop the aims and objectives of Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage within and between schools. It is concerned with developing self respect for others and the improvement of relationships between people of differing cultural traditions. It also addresses issues of disability, gender, race and religion and provides opportunities for children to learn to deal creatively with conflict.
The project is based on the novel 'The Heartstone Odyssey' which raises awareness of abusive behaviour including bullying, racism and sectarianism. Participating schools receive copies of the novel, and supporting materials. Each school develops their own Heartstone Story Circle, creating a safe forum where children listen to the Heartstone Odyssey but also have the opportunity to speak out about incidents of victimisation and begin to develop strategies for dealing with these situations. Children then exchange letters, photographs and personal profiles with their cross-community link story circle and come together for joint activities, which explore these issues and increase friendship, co-operation, understanding and respect. These might include church visits, local history and environmental projects, storytelling, art media, drama or dance workshops.
The project is aimed at pupils in years 6-8. Primary 6 would
seem the ideal year to introduce the children to the Heartstone
project as there would be the potential to continue into year
7, and possibly year 8, enabling participants to meet over a prolonged
period, thus creating a greater level and variety of interaction.
Heartstone is keen to encourage links between post-primary and
their feeder primary schools in addition to their own cross-community
link. At the end of the school year there are a series of regional
Heartstone Exhibitions and Events. Storytelling and other Heartstone
related activities are organised in conjunction with the children's
visit to the Exhibitiion/Event, making it a celebration of the
friendships established and the work accomplished.