We catch up with Patrick Jackson and the Pickermobile to see how Picker Pals, the environmental programme for primary schools, is going.
When Patrick Jackson established Picker Pals, he saw it as a way to help educate primary school kids about looking after their environment. And in 2023, Picker Pals has gone from strength to strength. Administered in Ireland by environmental N.G.O, VOICE, Patrick’s free Picker Pods have landed in primary schools across the country, while the Picker Pals characters are helping kids to take active steps to keep the local environment tidy.
We caught up with Patrick and the Pickermobile to find out about a typical school visit.
“No matter where I’m going, when it’s a Picker Pals Visit Day, I like to get up early,” Patrick explains. “I’ll have packed the Pickermobile, an all-electric BMW iX3, loaned by BMW Ireland the night before with all the props, picker-uppers and puppets so usually I can just get up and go: navigating the M50 and getting out of Dublin before anyone else is up is a simple pleasure!
“Depending on how far I’m going, I might drop in and top up with juice on the way. The charging network has improved noticeably over the 18 months I’ve been all-electric. Having visited every county in Ireland twice in the past year and a half, the BMW Pickermobile is well known at stations around the country.”
The initial switch to all-electric driving with the Pickermobile was met with some trepidation, but Patrick admits he’s a bit of a pro at the whole routine now. “Pulling into the charging bay, tapping the card, plugging in, checking the app. It’s as automatic now as filling up used to be,” he says.
When Patrick arrives at a school, he feels the sense of excitement. “It never gets old,” he tells us. “I’ll usually try to position the iX3 where the kids will see it. Sometimes, I get spotted from the classroom window – a lot of kids know about the Pickermobile from Picker Pals TV episodes.
“As I’m shown into the classroom I always ask, “Are these the famous St. Tolas Picker Pals?” “YESSS!” they cry. “Like, THE BEST Picker Pals in Ireland?”. “YESSSS!” they reply. Then I say that I have some bits in the Pickermobile, and I need some helpers. Of course, ALL the kids throw their hands in the air – any excuse to get out of the classroom.
“We make our way out to the car to whoops of “The Pickermobile! The Pickermobile!” I always spend a bit of time at this point telling the class about how I came all the way from Dublin but didn’t use any petrol and how all cars are going to be like that.”
Then it’s time for the Picker Pals classroom session. “This usually lasts about 40 minutes to an hour (it has run to two hours on occasion) and involves environmental storytelling, puppets and the Cloak of Howth covered in beach-found debris which we put on the teacher with great ceremony,” explains Patrick.
“Sometimes we do litter-picking playground games – The Olympicker Games – then it’s time to listen to the kids’ tales. This is a key part of the programme and positive feedback is incredibly important in bringing about the behavioural change we want. After a group rendition of the Picker Pals song, it’s time to head back to the car and I usually try to do a drive-by farewell. It feels great to see the happy faces of the kids.”
HOW HAS THE ALL -ELECTRIC BMW iX3 PICKERMOBILE IMPACTED YOUR TRIPS?
“The Pickermobile is a central part of the excitement,” Patrick tells us. “Considering it’s a car and not a book, it has even become part of our educational methodology – in that it brings fun, connections and motivates action and change. The car’s travels all over the country build community and give us some great content to share.
“We now have Picker Pals in 60 per cent of the schools in the country and a long waiting list for next year. The fact that the car is covered with Picker Pals characters helps motivate the kids and gets across something of the magic of the programme. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that rolling up in the iX3 is motivating to the founder of the programme as well! It’s also great to be a part of the BMW sustainability journey.”
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED?
It’s free to schools and super-easy for teachers to do with their classes. Lower primary school teachers should go to the Picker Pals website (pickerpalsworld.org) and fill in the expression of interest form there.
Parents of children in primary schools should get in touch with their schools and suggest they sign up. Organisations in Ireland keen to support Picker Pals should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.