Sharing From The Start partnership, Loughinisland Preschool and Crossgar Preschool, carried out a recent shared session/fundraiser for World Down Syndrome Day and between them raised £210. Children all wore their odd socks and joined in a virtual session where we read a story about Down Syndrome, learnt some simple Makaton signs and signed Goodbye song and sang a song about odd socks.
Sharing From The Start is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Funding enables pre-schools to take part in Shared Education projects improving educational outcomes and cross-community cohesion, inclusion and diversity. A number of neighbouring pre-school partnerships have been developed throughout Northern Ireland and the Southern Border Counties.
(L-R) Judy McSherry leader at Glasswater Preschool, Down Right Incredible representative Nichola McSherry and her son Euan, and Eileen Owens leader at Loughinisland Preschool
In recent months Loughinisland Preschool and Glasswater Preschool, who been partnered together with the programme for number of years, have adapted and come up with innovative ways to carry out shared education virtually. The children have been sending paintings and photos to each other so they can learn names and faces of their partner preschool. Thanks to a recent IT investment from Sharing From The Start, the preschools have been carrying out ‘Zoom’ lessons together, pleased to keep everyone connected and allow Shared Education to continue.
Through photographs, videos and virtual connections children are having the opportunity to form partnerships by sharing activities between the settings and learn about themselves and one another. They are able to develop awareness of their local community and that of their partnership. Using videos, props, instruments and virtual connections children are gaining respect for differing traditions/cultures and difference.
For their shared virtual session on St Patrick’s Day children were shown videos of traditional parades and celebrations along with discussion around culture. Both settings provided instruments, costumes and props relating to own culture/traditions. Media Initiative resources were displayed in both settings to support learning outcomes. Children wore green or costume of choice to celebrate own traditions. Staff members from both settings played traditional music and talked about the instruments being used. Parents/Grandparents were invited and any children learning remotely were given link to join. Both settings joined in dancing together and had a virtual parade.
Staff feel that children are becoming familiar with other setting and are now look forward to upcoming sessions, this is evident through comments being made by the children. Staff have gained a deeper respect and appreciation of the culture and traditions celebrated by partnering group. Both settings have noted that relationships between them have been strengthened and they are sharing practice and ideas respectfully.
Children have commented on enjoyment of sessions eg.
- “I like seeing Glasswater on the TV” – “Yay… we are going to see Glasswater today”..
- “Can we do that again” (talking about singing together)
- “Ahh, I liked that story about the Everywhere Bear, I wish I had one” “Is Glasswater going to sing with us”
- “I loved that day” talking about Easter session
- Is Glasswater getting Easter eggs too”
Parents have commented on shared sessions e.g:
- “Wouldn’t be nice if they got the opportunity to meet up sometime”
- “I’m hearing all about Glasswater, he seemed to have a good day”
- “This is a great program for the kids”
- “ He’s been talking all about seeing Loughinisland on TV and wants to go someday”
- “He talked about “glass of water” on the way home in the car with his granny and she didn’t know what he was on about… but when I came home I had to tell her he was talking about the Sharing From the Start Programme and the other Preschool was “GLASSWATER” 😊 … we all had a good laugh!”
- “She was showing me how to talk with her fingers”! (Makaton Sign)
Administered by Early Years, working in collaboration with the Fermanagh Trust and National Childhood Network, the Sharing From The Start project aims to engage almost 10,000 pre-school children in shared activities on an ongoing and sustained basis by 2021. Together these three organisations have a strong track record and over twenty years experience of working for the benefit of children and community relations.