2012 Winning Learning Stories

The Big Bag of Chestnuts (December Joint Winner) Little Hands Montessori   The best laid plans…..! This story is an indicator of how when children are interested in a topic or item, there is no stopping them! These practitioners abandoned their plans for the day as the children’s interest in the bag of chestnuts took […]

2012 Winning Learning Stories

The Big Bag of Chestnuts (December Joint Winner)

Little Hands Montessori

Chesnuts Learning Story


The best laid plans…..! This story is an indicator of how when children are interested in a topic or item, there is no stopping them! These practitioners abandoned their plans for the day as the children’s interest in the bag of chestnuts took priority in their minds. The children played freely and number of different ways they explored the chestnuts is fascinating. First, they explored distance, shape and numbers. Then, the adult introduced the game of conkers and showed the children how to make them. This is a game that requires excellent hand/eye coordination. Then the chestnuts moved the children into a rich role play where they drew on their existing knowledge and experience to develop their game.


Exploring the great outdoors, in and out of the classroom (December Joint Winner)

Bright Horizons, Drogheda

Pumpkin Twos Learning Story


This story is about under 2’s engaged in learning. Most young children are fascinated by water, mud and puddles. This story began when a child indicated an interest in exploring a puddle and the adults followed the children’s lead and went outdoors where the children were allowed time and opportunity to experience the natural environment. The photos depict wonderfully children’s sense of awe and wonder. The practitioners build on their drive to explore and discover by cleverly burying a range of vegetables in the soil. This very child centred learning journey is simple and effective and supports the children to make real connections with their everyday lives.



Post (November)

Cheeky Cherubs

The Post


The story captures the excitement of a postcard arriving at the preschool for the children and how this generated an interest in the post at home. The winning element of the story begins when the children design postcards that they think their own families would like and then work out how they will get to the post office to post them. We can see children’s exploring and thinking in action. The trip to the post office was a memorable learning experience for the children and an example of engaging the community in children’s learning.


Science Project Part 1 and Part 2 (October)

Bright Horizons

Science Project


Everyone loves to find buried treasure and the children in this preschool are no different! When a child brought in a dinosaur fossil it sparked lots of curiosity from the rest of the children. They investigated the different ways in which things get buried and followed this with how they are dug up again! Drawing on the parents occupations, they accessed tools to afford the children opportunities to extend their interest in and knowledge of archaeology and science laboratories.


Owl Babies Explore Nature (September)

Bright Horizons, Balgriffin

Owl Babies  

How old do you have to be to begin to explore the natural environment?

These little ‘owl babies’ who are aged between 8 and 10 months are already beginning, with the support of the adults, to explore theirs. Touching, feeling and smelling the different leaves the babies are demonstrating their ability to explore the natural environment through their senses.


Our Art Exhibition (August Joint Winner)

Bright Horizons, Ashbourne, Co. Meath

Art Exhibition Learning Story

  On exploring different painting tools, the children discovered that different paint types offered very different kinds of painting experiences. Their interest prompted the adults to explore different art forms and resulted in the children creating their own designs on erasers and then printing their own fabric designs. This story shows how they explored various other art forms and like true artists, once they had a ‘collection’ they wanted to exhibit it, which they did in the local library!

Fabric Fun (August Joint Winner)

The Cottage Kid’s Playschool, Tyrellstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin

Fabric Fun Learning Story


“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” or in this case “one mums junk is the children’s treasure”! A bag of fabric remnants became the source of great exploration, perfect for creating Indian dresses, a tent and even a pirates flag! The creativity went on for a number of weeks until finally it was decided to have a fashion show with all of their own creations. Organising the fashion show, modelling in it and even taking over the compering demonstrated the children’s increasing levels of confidence and competence that all began with a bag of scraps!



Rainbow’s Trip to Europe (July Joint Winner)

ABC Creche

Rainbow's Trip to Europe


This is a great story that took Rainbow the bear on a cruise ship adventure all over Europe. Because Rainbow is very much a part of the lives of all the children in this setting, they decided they should track his progress by following his itinerary on the map of Europe. Lots of photos were taken in very faraway places before he had to come home again, on an aeroplane. Lucky Rainbow even got to meet the pilot! Throughout this learning journey, the children in the setting had an opportunity to explore boats, travel, the ocean and the big wide world!


Electric Stingrays (July Joint Winner)

Giggles Playgroup

Electric Stingrays   Sometimes it is hard to remember how a subject topic arises with children, but this learning story shows us how the children make connections between new information they read or hear about and what they already know. Commotion in the Ocean is a storybook about different sea creatures and when the stingray was mentioned the conversation moved from fish to electricity. This is a good example of how the children can become very involved in documenting their own knowledge and learning as they quickly absorbed themselves in drawing and painting their perception of what electricity is and what it does. Each child confidently and competently added their own little nugget of information, leading not only to a greater shared knowledge but also to new emergent interests!

Planes in the Bear Hunt Room (June)

Bright Horizons, Eastpoint

Planes in the Bear Hunt Room


This story shows us how important adults are in the lives of young children. Here you can see how following the children’s emergent interest in the aeroplanes helped to expand their vocabulary and their creativity. As the toddlers gathered by the window to do what most young children will do, look for the origin of a noise, the adults took this emerging interest and used it both indoors and outdoors, to enhance their short term curriculum.


The New Baby (May Joint Winner)

Early Days Montessori Playgroup

The New Baby

  This is a wonderful story that follows the children’s play and learning as they explore the news that a number of the children will soon be welcoming new babies into their families. They describe, discuss and act out how they think this will impact on their lives, from naming the new born babies to washing, dressing and feeding them – making sense of it all through play. Having an opportunity to observe a real baby added to their awe, and making the comparisons with a real live great-granny enhanced the children’s experiences and learning.

The Cow Project (May Joint Winner)

Free-Range Kids Explorer Preschool

The Cow Project

  This story was initiated when a throwaway comment from an adult was picked up by a child, prompting the activities that supported the children to explore where milk comes from, what can be made from it, and how this happens. The children experience milking the cow (glove!), separating the cow’s milk into milk and cream, and making their own bread with the milk and butter from the cream. A wonderful culturally appropriate learning journey for this the children in this rural preschool.

The Yoghurt Tubs (March Joint Winner)

Little Folk Preschool, Dublin

The Yoghurt Tubs Learning Story   In this wonderful story we see how simple open ended materials stimulate the children’s imagination and creativity. They become engineers, road builders, artists and hosts as they find many uses for the tubs. The practitioners support the children to work together to create and problem solve. It is a great example of how children are supported to recognise and celebrate the kindnesses of Dolores a local grandmother. They give back more than they receive as they share their learning with joy.

A Fishy Tale (March Joint Winner)

Busy B’s Preschool, Co. Dublin

A Fishy tale Learning Story

  A fishy tale of pirates and ships from this seaside playschool. The adventure begins as the children welcome two new pet gold fish into their setting. Giving a voice to the children the practitioners listen to the emerging interests in pirates and all things nautical. The children are then supported to explore and think about the sea and its different uses. Using their new knowledge, creativity and imagination they create a sea, build ships, write and tell stories, and become pirates and mermaids.

a) The Mart (March Joint Winner)

The Glen Outdoor School, Donegal (Sally O’Donnell)

the Mart Learning Story

  This marvellous story follows Conan as he demonstrates his vast knowledge of the process involved in going and coming from a mart. With sensitive engagement the practitioner follows the child’s play and obtains insights into his knowledge and interests. The excitement is palpable as they go on a real trip to the mart. On his and returns he shares his experiences with his friends and family. This is a fantastic example of nurture and nature and how through play children can make sense of their world.

b) Message in a Bottle (March Joint Winner)

The Park School for Early Learning, Donegal (Sally O’Donnell)

Message in a Bottle Learning Story

  This exciting story came about as one of the pre school children found a letter in a bottle on the beach while out walking with her parents. Connections between home, school and community are forged in the unfolding story. The power and reality of literacy is shared with these children in a most engaging and exciting way.

a) The Digger and the Water Pipe (March Joint Winner)

Nurture Childcare Mount Street, Dublin

the Digger and the Waterpipe Learning Story

  This story was initiated when a child observed some construction work taking place outside the setting. The children are brought outside to see the work in progress. This generates great discussion, play, and creativity as the children construct their own roads and lay their own water pipes. It also demonstrates how consuming and exciting new learning can be when children are supported to follow their interests.

b) When Babies discover their bodies (March Joint Winner)

Nurture Childcare Mount Street, Dublin

When Babies Discover their Bodies Learning Stories

  This delightful story follows young babies as they discover their bodies. It shows how simple activities can be so effective. The practitioners observe the babies exploring the dolls faces and find engaging ways to help them discover their own bodies. Identity and belonging brought to life.

The Archaeological Site (March Joint Winner)

The Cottage Kids Playschool Lusk Co Dublin

The Archaeological Site Learning Story

  This unique adventure follows the children as they develop their interest from burying in the sand pit to an archaeological play experience. Following the children’s interest in the sand the practitioner fosters their curiosity and learning as they research and carry out an archaeological dig. The children are afforded the time and the tools to excavate and discover.

Where is Space? (Febraury Joint Winner)

Early Days Playgroup

Feb1 copy  

This comprehensive learning story shows us the world of possibilities when practitioners follow children’s emerging interests. Their curiosity and imagination is fuelled by the open ended materials and fed by the opportunity to explore the concept of space and rocket ships through many different mediums. The children’s thoughts, ideas, and words are captured and developed into a story book that will be shared and valued for a long time to come. This is a wonderful example of the power of play and the capacity of young children.


Car Race (February Joint Winner)

Creative Days Pre-School

Feb2 copy  

This simple story contains many layers of learning: the children learn how language, literacy, and numeracy have a real purpose in this play activity and are experienced by them in the most simple and enjoyable way. The children lead the play deciding they want to race cars they build a race track and with support from the practitioners find ways to record and document the fastest car. The children display “ a can do” approach which the practitioners encourage.


Big and Small (February Joint Winner)

The Toddler Inn Crèche & Pre School

Feb3 copy  

In this story the toddlers get to grips with the concept of Big and Small. The practitioners follow a child’s interest and find many engaging ways to explore big and small with the children. The cook pops in to help with the learning and the practitioners record the experience to share with the families. This inclusive approach really supports the children’s learning and encourages connections within the service and between home and the service.


Ailbhe Teaches her Friends about Hospitals (January Joint Winner)

Jan1 copy  

In this story we see how Ailbhe shares her knowledge and experiences of hospital with her friends. They are supported through their play and interactions to share their understanding of the world. We can see how they are encouraged to reflect on their experiences, represent it in words and drawings, and share with families. A powerful demonstration of an emergent play based curriculum in action that supports language and literacy.


A Toothy Tale (January Joint Winner)

Little Friends Playgroup

Jan2 copy  

Little Friends compile “A Special Book” which is produced by the children and proudly shared with parents. In this story from the book we see the children’s own comments and drawings. This is a powerful way of demonstrating children’s knowledge and skills. This story shows how the practitioners value Eoin’s excitement about Titus’s Troublesome Tooth and engage the whole group in the developing theme. It also shows how the service connects with the health services in the community to extend the children’s interest and learning. The parents and families are also provided with helpful information. Here many of the standards in Síolta are being addressed.


Safe and Sound (January Joint Winner)

Little Moo Moo’s Playschool

Jan3 copy  

This story has been taken directly from Little Moo Moo’s Project Book which is compiled by both children and staff and shared with parents on a regular basis. In this story we see how the children’s emerging interest develops into a project on Road Safety. It demonstrates how children make connections from their new learning. The Big Red Bus jigsaw leads into Wheels on the Bus role play. The supportive practitioners observe this interest and plan a project that grows in many directions. They follow many lines of enquiry with the children such as keeping safe , road safety, traffic lights, and village map making. The activities utilise both their indoor and outdoor environments.


Animal Antics (January Joint Winner)

The ABC Club

Jan4 copy  

Many young children are fascinated by animals and they are a regular feature in children’s play. In this story we see how the children’s interest in animals was supported. The environment, materials and curriculum provided opportunities for rich play experiences. The practitioners considered ways to make links between children, families, and community. The links between the service and their families were strengthened by the visit of family pets to playgroup. The veterinary nurse also made a visit connecting the playgroup to the community and extending the children’s understanding of responsibility and care.

Design & Development