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DkIT Lecturer Bernie is Project Lead on Intergenerational Learning Initiative

02 October 2023

Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) are proud to report that one of their part time lecturers, Bernie Pentony who is an early year’s educator on the BA Early Childhood Studies programme, is project lead on a transformative intergenerational learning project locally. This project recognises that working closely with families and communities is an important part of early childhood education.



Bernie Pentony said,

‘For over twenty-eight years I have been employed as an early year’s educator in an early intervention preschool programme funded by the Department of Education and Skills in Ireland. Our preschool is in a disadvantaged area, with high rates of unemployment and lone-parent families. Supporting parents and families is an integral part of our work. In 2018, I was fortunate to take part in the pilot version of the TOY training project about Intergenerational Learning (IGL). My work colleagues were very willing to collaborate with me to develop this project that would be meaningful for our community.  It seemed natural and logical to incorporate the concept of Intergenerational Learning as a means to further support and build positive connections between home, school, and community.  The increasingly significant role grandparents are playing in supporting their families in our community also sparked our interest in Intergenerational Learning’.

Each year, the Intergenerational Learning programme runs from February to May with a regular monthly activity. Activities include gardening, arts & crafts, cookery, storytelling, dance and games. The senior participants are mostly the children’s grandparents. The project also visit and receive visits from the local community-based Men’s Shed. The Men’s Shed participants have been a positive force, their time, skills, and attention were shared with the children and grandparents, proving how shared learning spaces can be achieved. The local Tai Chi senior citizen group have also taken part in the programme where they have shown the children gentle movements and dance with them.

Bernie said

“Reflecting back, I would say that the IGL programme has been successful because of the variety of senior participants and activities. There were other factors too, as I discovered when I decided to focus my Master’s in Teaching and Learning research study on the participating early childhood educators’ perspectives and lived experiences of IGL. The findings show that, overall, the educators had a positive experience of Intergenerational Learning”.

Educators in this study also highlighted the importance of Intergenerational learning in supporting children’s socio-emotional development, increasingly seen as critical to success in life, especially in school. The study also showed that nurturing relationships and a positive emotional climate are essential elements for positive learning in the relationship between young children and older adults. So too was the sheer joy for all involved, as captured by this study participant:

“ ….. the happiness and the joy these interactions and activities can bring … to see how enjoyable it is for both the older and younger generations, which is what the whole thing was all about”.

The participating educators also valued how Intergenerational Learning promoted the participation of grandparents and other older adults in young children’s lives, those partaking also felt that community connections is something that should be given more attention in early years services.

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