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Nau Mai Haere mai. Welcome to Mairtown Kindergarten's blog.

21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Culture of caring

The only way to have a friend is to be one - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Returning after a summer break is always a time filled with anticipation and excitement for our children and their families at Mairtown. Catching up with familiar faces and meeting knew children makes for a buzz of energy.

It was so lovely witnessing friendships being rekindled and their play taking off just where it left off at the end of last year. Some of the children reflected on how they had missed each other whilst on holiday.
“I missed Tiaki this holiday and playing running games and being cheeky.” (Taika)
“You know I missed Sharlotte so much when I was up north.” (Charlie)

“When I was camping I missed Nyla.” (Sienna)
“I missed Donna and all the teachers, even you. And I missed all the children. It’s been nice coming back aye.” (Tyler)
“I love friends.”
“I love friends too.”
“It makes us good to have friends’ aye.” (Kayla and Matteo)

"Friendship interactions are vital for the healthy development of children, and may result in heightened self-esteem, positive self-identity, effective communication, as well as successful cognitive, social and conceptual development” (Haslett and Samter, 1997).

We also have lots of new children who have just started kindergarten. This can be an overwhelming time for our new friends who have to learn about all our routines and rituals, as well as being a part of a large group. Here at kindergarten we are really lucky to have such wonderful children who demonstrate great rangatiratanga (leadership) skills. Our older children have been wonderful at making our new children feel welcomed. Caring gestures such as kindly telling them where to place their cup after they have finished having a drink, where they can find tissues, how we put our felt pens in certain jars are just a few of the lovely interactions that I have seen take place over the past week. Though these gestures might seem small, they are very influential in terms of fostering our new children’s sense of belonging and well-being.

“I showed the new kid how to put the pens in the right colour jars.” (Charlie)

“Excuse me, you need to put your cup here, ok.” (Toby talking to one of the new children)

Te Whariki recognises that, “Children should experience an environment where they feel comfortable with the routines, customs and regular events in the early childhood education setting…  This setting should be like a caring home: a secure and safe place where each member is entitled to respect and to the best of care. The feeling of belonging, in the widest sense, contributes to inner well-being, security, and identity.”

I have seen our children include our new friends in their play, share resources with them and make time for them in caring and respectful ways. There has been lots of helping and making sure everyone knows where things go, where to find resources and how we come together at whānau time (when we eat kai) and so on. This is a great example of our children displaying traits of tuakana-teina, a Te Ao Māori concept.
Rawlings and Wilson (2013) quote that, “The concept of tuakana-teina is not new, and within a kaupapa Māori context it literally means an older sibling looking after a younger sibling. However, in the learning context it has taken on the meaning of a more experienced student (tuakana/mentor) looking after and guiding a newer student (teina/mentee) in a holistic manner.”

I feel so proud that our children are displaying such caring characteristics and I believe that one of the reasons that this is taking place is because we have a culture of respect and care at Mairtown Kindergarten. Manaakitanga underpins our philosophy here and as teachers we work hard to role model interactions that support this.
“Manaakitanga relates to the finer qualities of people rather than just possessions. It is the principle quality of caring, kindness, hospitality, and showing respect for others. To exhibit manaakitanga is to raise ones mana (manaaki) through generosity.” (Henare, 2005)

Through caring for our new children in such a respectful and welcoming way, we (the teachers and the children) are able to begin building significant relationships with them, which once again fosters a wonderful sense of belonging. This leads to children making meaningful connections and nurtures significant friendships. The concept of whanaungatanga, which encompasses building and maintaining relationships and links strongly to people having a sense of belonging, can be seen through friendships that are established at kindergarten.

ECE Educate acknowledges that, “Relationships are a source of learning, empowerment, and identity for all of us. This is reflected in the concept of whanaungatanga.”

I would like to thank our children for being so responsible, caring and respectful. You are such wonderful role models for our new friends. With this in mind, welcome to all our new friends and families at Mairtown. We hope that you feel welcomed, comfortable and that your time spent with us is full of joy.

“Whanaungatanga is about knowing you are not alone, and that you have a wider set of acquaintances that provide support, assistance, nurturing, guidance and direction when needed.” (Broadly and Williams, 2012)

Ngā mihi nui, Zair

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Thinking about the benefits of play

Welcome back to a new year at Mairtown kindergarten, we trust that you have all had a relaxing and fun summer so far. This new year and new term sees us welcoming many new children and their families; nau mai haere mai Franchi, Jack, Lali, Isla, Kalani, Nelly, Teequan, Jaejin and Madison. We are so joyful that you have chosen Mairtown as your education setting and look forward to the learning journey we will share over the next two (or more) years.

As I write this first blog post of the year today, it is also our first day back at kindergarten after our long refreshing summer break. So, with that in mind I thought it might be nice to share with you some learning I was undertaking with a group of children at the end of last term. Something I am hoping I will continue to work on a little more with the children as this term progresses.

Those of you who have read some of the previous posts written by me will know just how much I love to get children thinking– thinking creatively whilst also thinking about their own thinking (metacognition) – and in this particular blog post  - thinking about the learning that happens through their own play.

Play is of course an essential aspect of early childhood because children learn so many skills through their playful engagements. There are many different types and characteristics of play, and I see all our kindergarten children involved in many different aspects of play frequently, and often at the same time!

When I talked to this small group of children about playing, I was interested to see their individuals views on play, to hear their thinking about what they enjoy playing, to encourage each of them to use their thinking skills in a metacognitive manner (where they have to analysis their own learning or thinking processes) and also to see if any of the children feel they learn anything through their play experiences. Research of course states the many benefits of play and being playful, for both children and adults, but I was particularly interested to see if our children value and recognise their own play for what it provides.

Play is sometimes contrasted with ‘work’ and characterised as a type of activity which is essentially unimportant, trivial and lacking in any serious purpose. As such, it is seen as something that children do because they are immature, and as something they will grow out of as they become adults. However, repeated research shows this view is mistaken. Play in all its rich variety is one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology. Indeed, without play, none of these other achievements would be possible. The value of play is increasingly recognised for adults as well as children, as the evidence mounts of its relationship with intellectual achievement and emotional well-being.  (University of Cambridge).

So, with that in mind last term I asked the questions,
 ‘What do you enjoy playing?’ and 
‘What do you think you learn through this play?’

I just love the responses I got. Aside from the children verbally telling me their thoughts I also encouraged them to draw their ideas. From personal experience I find that drawing is a wonderful tool that can assist children in communicating their thoughts at a deeper level.

Here are just some of the wonderful, and I hope you agree, very thoughtful pieces of work the children produced along with their comments.

Liam “I like playing in the sandpit cause I like to make castles and holes. I learn that my friends, they are helpers, they can help me build things”

Wyatt “
Playing is important because it gives you exercise, I like playing rugby cause you can rip tags and get some tries. Playing rugby makes me feel better, but sometimes it hurts, but it does make my legs feel better. I learnt rugby by training and I learnt it’s going to make me stronger. If I keep playing rugby I’ll learn to be really good like an All Black when I’m older!”

Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.  (O. Fred Donaldson)

Emma “I like playing and I learn that playing is so nice and it makes me have a big heart and a beautiful mind. And playing makes me nicer from my big heart and it makes my mind go round and round, but sometimes playing is hard and makes me tired. I have two brains and one brain goes down, down, down into my heart and my other brain makes me sleepy. Playing is very very much good. Hide and seek is my favourite. My dad and I play hide and seek, this is my dad counting and I’m running behind.”

Charlie "I love playing with my brother because he’s got lots of Lego and money, and he’s way bigger than us, and sometimes he’s naughty and sometimes he’s good. I don’t look happy in this picture cause N won’t let me play with his Lego. When I play with N I learn all about how to be a good sister!”

Max “I like playing with L at my home and the things in my home. I play with all my family, dad and mum and me and R and L and E and I like playing with my friends at Kindy. Dad plays with me, he play with my Lego. When I play I learn how to be a friend, if I play good, I learn how to be a good friend”. 

Reese “I have learnt about the monkey bars and about swinging down and slipping off. It’s taught me to be strong and to keep trying, as I swing from one bar to two bars”.

Our NZ curriculum, Te Whāriki, highlights the importance of educators creating environments where children’s play is valued as meaningful learning.  Although all the teachers at Mairtown recognise self-directed play as an essential aspect of our kindergarten programme, essentially for the learning it engenders; I can’t help but think after my work with this group of children, after listening to their words, engaging in a conversation with them and supporting them in their drawing as another means of communication and self-expression, we can see that all these children too, recognise their play – perhaps unconsciously – for the valuable contribution it makes to their life long learning and their future educational success.

Children learn through play constantly. They learn to make sense of the world around them, they develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments. Key ways that young children learn include playing, being with other people, being active, exploring new experiences, talking to themselves, communication with others, meeting physical and mental challenges, being shown how to do new things, practicing and repeating skills and having fun. Play is not wasted time, but rather time spent building new knowledge from previous experience (Kahn & Wright, 1980).

Hei konā mai, 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Kua tae ki te wā Kirihimete – Christmas has arrived!

This week is the last of our calendar year at kindergarten before we all go on to enjoy a highly anticipated summer holiday. December is always a special time for us, there is an air of festivity and excitement in the children and lots of wide eyed stories to share.

 This year we have had the opportunity to widen our Christmas celebrations, through an invitation to participate in a community 'Festival of Christmas Trees', organised by the St John’s Golden church.

The church provided twenty trees to be decorated by a variety of community groups, and thanks to Taika’s nana Raewyn (one of the organisers), we were lucky enough to be asked to decorate one.

The purpose of the Christmas tree display is to showcase some of the community groups in Whangarei. When we were deciding what style to decorate our tree, we felt this would be a wonderful opportunity to create a Christmas display that highlighted the philosophy of our kindergarten.

“At Mairtown Kindergarten we believe in providing opportunities for children to learn to love and connect with nature. We feel this enables children to become motivated to care for and to develop respect for our community, our natural world and for all living things” (Alford, 2014).

The decorations on our tree were all created and designed by our tamariki, using a combination of  natural, recycled and up-cycled materials including, twig stars, sliced oranges (that are fed to hungry birds when taken down), sparkly ‘bomby knockers’, glitter dipped feathers and peg fairies. Our children are wonderfully clever and just love opportunities to work with resources in creative and imaginative ways.
“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making of something out of it after it is found.” James Russell Lowell

When the decorations were complete Susie, Christine, Zair and my-self went down the road to dress our beautiful tree, it looks so stunning, and although there are 19 other attractively decorated trees in the church, we all agreed that our children’s work was truly the most wonderful!

On December 4th, our kindergarten whānau took a hikoi to view the Festival of Christmas trees. It was a beautiful sunny day to take a short stroll up Kamo Road with friends and family.

At St John’s Golden church we were welcomed in by Raewyn and Beryl and invited into view the display. The church looked wonderful with such an array of design, style, colour and lights. Raewyn had also prepared a delicious snack of shortbread for the tamariki, and in acknowledgement of their time and care the children gifted two beautifully sung Christmas carols in return.

One idea of community denotes ‘common unity’, or participating in a common purpose. Having the opportunity to contribute to the beautiful display in the St John’s Golden church has been a real treat for our tamariki and whānau. Creating decorations collaboratively has enriched our children’s learning; however I believe the most important feature of this story is the opportunity for our tamariki to share magic and wonderment with others in community. The true joy of the Christmas season is the love and memories shared with our family and friends.

Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

Meri Kirihimete ki a koe me te whānau – Merry Christmas to you and your family
Kim Townsend