Inspiration through play

Aideen and Katie Fitzpatrick from Little Stars Pre School in Moville pictured at their open day celebrations.
Aideen and Katie Fitzpatrick from Little Stars Pre School in Moville pictured at their open day celebrations.

As teenagers, the five Fitzpatrick sisters returned from England to set up home closer to relatives in the North West.

Now sisters Aideen and Katie Fitzpatrick have successfully established an innovative pre-school on Moville’s Main Street which is guaranteed to bring even the most timid ‘Little Stars’ out of their shells!

This family-run pre-school opened its doors in September 2010 and caters for children in the year before they officially start primary school. Through a series of exciting and fun-filled activities, the pre-school helps children to become socially ready for big school.

Under the government’s ECCE scheme, places at the pre-school are free to children aged over three years and three months. The pre-school itself is situated on Moville’s picturesque seafront overlooking the ocean.

30 year-old Aideen Fitzpatrick, (BA, MA, PGCE) is now a fully qualified primary and nursery school teacher who lives in the heart of Moville. Aideen has spent the past decade working with young people in an international nursery with a wide range of abilities and needs.

Younger sibling Katie Fitzpatrick, aged 28 years-old, is a well established creative arts facilitator in the North West who teaches early years dance, drama and art and she specialises in community work for pre-school age children.

Speaking to the ‘Derry Journal’, Katie revealed how Little Stars was born: “The pre-school came about because one of Aideen’s PGCE assignments was to design a dream nursery.

“I wanted to help, and we sat up all night working on it and we realised that we both had loads of great ideas, loads of experience and that we worked really well together!”

“Aideen already lived in Moville and we knew there was no playschool there as such and then the ECCE Scheme came out entitling everyone to free school places and so it just made sense for Aideen and I to set up there as Moville obviously needed a pre-school.”

First they set about finding a suitable building: “We looked at the building on Main Street and thought it would be perfect as its so close to the sea. It was a basement building that had been lying empty since 2006 and so now it has us, a hairdressers upstairs and an architect’s firm at the front - all women’s businesses!

“We got an interest-free loan from the Women’s Loan Fund from Donegal County Enterprise Board, designed to get Donegal women back into work and then we were able to borrow enough to get ourselves started at the school. Basically, we are providing a government provision and making it fun!”

With a special emphasis on imagination and artistic expression, Little Stars consists of many novel activities to interest its tiny clientele. The pre-school explores painting, drawing, craft-making and 3D art to get creative juices flowing.

All areas of the pre-school’s education programme are themed, with some of those themes including Settling In, People Who Help Us (vets, doctors, etc), All About Me, Space, Under the Sea, Road Safety, Things That Move, Babies, Gardening, Farm and Holidays.

“We never have more than 20 children at one session, and we have different themes every month, with each activity linked in to that theme and the room decorated to match,” Katie went on. “At the minute we’re doing gardening and so the children are growing little watercress-seed heads and growing their own tomatoes in plant pots.”

Little Stars also welcomes special guests. “Facilitators come in at least twice a week, Siobhan Shiels comes in for Music and Circle Time, Lorna McLaughlin of The Henry Girls comes in on a Tuesday for Practical Music with songs and world instruments, Terry Richmond from the local Mother and Toddler group comes in to do Music and Movement and local artist Sinead Smyth does Art and Sculpture. Siobhan Simpson from Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company has been in a few times too,” Katie says.

In order to enhance children’s social skills, sessions also include day visits.

“We did a trip around town and visited the bank, the library and the Post Office, where each of the children got to post a letter home. We also try to go to the park every day and we had the Guards in, a paramedic visiting to talk to the children and a trip by the coastguard. We’re also planning a teddy-bears picnic,” she adds.

Some of Little Stars’ other activities are particularly novel. The children’s special Story Time is broadcast on Inishowen Community Radio (ICR) every week.

“The children are on the radio every Friday and it’s an interactive activity with the kids making the noises in the stories and singing Little Stars before and afterwards too - they love it. Sometimes either the parents or local people from the community come in and take part too,” Katie said.

Well known local DJ Kwa Daniels of educational programme bOUNCE is also compiling a Baby bOUNCE programme to get the toddlers on their feet and dancing! All workshops are free of charge as part of the pre-school session.

So if your child’s birthday falls between 2 February 2007 and 30 June 2008 and Little Stars appeals to you, contact Katie and Aideen at Little Stars, 8 Bath Terrace, Main Street, Moville, Donegal. Telephone: 074. 93. 85636 or mobile: 086. 8494369 or email: movillepreschool@live.com