Haere mai! Welcome to Mairtown Kindergarten's blog.

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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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Christine's ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award (NEiTA)

On Friday 10th of October a party of whānau, friends, colleagues and associates gathered at a local bar in Whangarei for a wonderful celebration.
Unbeknown to Christine (though keenly awaited!) was the news that after fifteen months of thinking, preparing, writing, presenting and then more writing, she was going to receive an ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award (NEiTA). This makes Christine one of New Zealand’s top educators!

Photograph courtesy of Michael Cunnigham
Christine is one of five teachers to receive the prestigious ASG teaching award across early childhood, primary, intermediate and secondary schools from more than 600 nominations.

Christine’s award presentation was a superb evening. NEiTA judge Ann Dickason begun proceedings by explaining the rigorous selection process nominees go through to reach the national awards. When Ann announced Christine as a winner the news was responded to with a standing ovation. Glennis Topham from ASG then presented Christine with her crystal apple trophy and scholarship money.

Photograph courtesy of Michael Cunnigham

Northland Kindergarten’s Association CEO Richard Storey gave a thoughtful speech encapsulating Christine’s passion and dedication to our profession; as Richard stated (and we completely agree) Christine is “an absolute asset to both our kindergarten and association”.

I was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to say a few words and spoke on behalf of our team and community of the benefits we have all received by being recipients of Christine’s knowledge, care and expertise. Her Worship our Mayor was also present for the award presentation; she finished the speeches by proposing a toast. As Sheryl Mai spoke I glanced around a room of people who beamed with pride and respect; as you can imagine it was a really wonderful night!

Christine, her husband Mat and children Molly and Ben along with Her worship the Mayor Sheryl Mai.

ASG NEiTA Chief Executive Officer, John Velegrinis, states, “Ms Alford is an outstanding educator” she “has proven herself to be a teacher of the highest calibre. It is very heartening to meet a teaching professional so committed to bringing out the best in our children and her record of achievement is outstanding” (NEiTA media release, 2014)

In my leadership role, I am hugely appreciative of not-for-profit organisations like ASG who make public acknowledgement of excellence in teaching possible. If you too know a teacher who’s commitment to their career and contribution to education is worth acknowledging, go to www.asg.co.nz for more information on entering the awards. Applications for ASG NEiTA open again in April 2015.

Nga mihi nui

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Introducing our 'Playpod'

Almost a year ago Christine, Susie and I attended a thought-provoking presentation facilitated by International Play Advisor (Outdoor Play and Learning: OPAL) and Play England trustee, Michael Follet. Michael has a vision to improve all aspects of children’s play opportunities and is an advocate for creating the ‘best conditions’ for children to be engaged in open ended, creative play.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Michael speak, seize the moment, he is knowledgeable, witty and most importantly passionate about his work and vision. His presentation was a steely reminder of our role as teachers (and parents) to protect and promote the value of play as a vehicle for learning. Whilst many topics were discussed and covered in his workshop one that totally piqued my interest was his introduction to ‘Playpods‘ in Primary Schools.

Playpods are basically shipping containers FULL of recycled objects and materials that children can use and manipulate for the purpose of their play. At kindergarten (as in many places) we often refer to these open ended objects as ‘Loose parts’.

“Loose parts can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together"  (Surrey County Council, 2012)

“Loose parts are flexible elements within a play environment. They are the fuel which feeds the fire of children’s imaginations and playful intentions(OPAL, 2014)
Loose parts have always been viewed and loved as a necessary resource in our programme however, as I sat in Michael’s presentation I started to visualise and ponder what might evolve in our children's play if we created a designated  play space (or our interpretation of a Playpod) for some of our loose parts at kindergarten. 
It was time for some team planning!

Our Playpod is an un-used avocado bin and is housed on our grass area. The loose parts provided have been chosen by the team after a brain storming session on objects that we know and felt would further support children’s creative thinking. Our objective with the Playpod was to offer a mix of new and already favoured materials and in keeping with the theory of loose parts, we would offer lots of the same items.

“The greater the diversity of loose parts offered to children, the greater the range of play interactions. These interactions enable open ended exploration through play leading to learning by doing” (The children’s scrapstore, 2014).

On the 9th of September our Playpod was ‘officially opened’, this was an exciting morning for children and teachers alike; we were really excited to observe how the children would choose to explore and interact with this new space and the tamariki were in full resourceful thinking mode!

“When children have opportuniites to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understanding and ways of doing things” (Surrey County Council, 2012)

We are now five weeks down the track of having a Playpod in our playscape. As envisaged, this wonderful edition to the children’s choices for self-directed play has been a hub of activity.

As PlayEngland (2014) states “the capacity and ability of children’s play is inexhaustible” this giant box of treasures promotes creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, sustained engagement and supports our children’s schema’s. We just love it!

See you in term four!

Nga mihi nui

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Princess Party to Farewell Donna

After 17 years of working for the Northland Kindergarten Association – 15 of those at Mairtown Kindergarten – on Friday we farewelled our beautiful teacher, Donna.

Of course, we couldn’t let Donna leave without her knowing that really, we think she is a true princess! So after a little planning (and much sneakiness!) we sent Donna away for a while whilst we busily decorated the deck area for our shared lunch, and inside, created the perfect space for pampering our princess.

On her return the pampering began. First the children decided which princess dress she should wear, and then when she was adorned in her crown, the children got busy. Donna was moisturised, had her feet submerged in a bubbly warm foot spa, had her hair brushed and decorated, her toes manicured and painted and generally made a big fuss of.

The pampering begins...
Which princess dress?

Will you have this dance Donna?

In true princess style we had to have a ‘ball’ with Prince Tyler asking Donna for the first dance.

At midday lots of our families arrived and after a few teary speeches we presented Donna with a huge basket of gifts – generously donated by our whānau and children – a stunning card made by the children, and as a surprise for Donna we all watched a slideshow of photos spanning her teaching career.

When it was time for our shared kai, Donna sat at the head of the table and in front of an amazing castle cake (made by Kim) that also had a mini decorated Donna sitting on top.

Donna has been a huge part of Mairtown Kindergarten and has taught many many children over the years, in fact it was lovely to welcome some past families and children back, and amazing to hear stories about Donna from people she taught years ago who are now studying at University.

We are really going to miss Donna at Mairtown, and she will leave a huge gap in our lives. We will miss her joyfulness, her sense of humour and her beautiful smile. I’d like to share some touching comments about Donna from a few of our families.

A past student of Donna's (from a few years ago!)

‘Kaiako Donna, it’s so fabulous, wonderful and awesome to have your wisdom and experience shared with our daughter. Arohanui.’

‘Donna, We have been fortunate by having you in both our children’s lives at such an important stage of their development, when their values and character are founded and shaped. We wish you a very happy and fulfilling retirement, and hope that you will be able to enjoy it very much, since you very well deserve it.’

Loving the princess slippers Donna!
‘Where to start, what an amazing lady, you have been a massive part of my boys life and they all love you very much. They will all be better humans from spending time with you, thank you for being such a fantastic teacher, friend and protector of our kids.’

‘Dear Donna. Thank you so much being such a wonderful teacher for our three kids. You bring such a vibrancy to this kindergarten and will be very much missed.’

And of course no one is going to miss Donna as much as the children. When thinking about what is so special about Donna, they told us:

Pictures of Donna in her castle
‘She does the nicest things for me, like she push me on the swing’

‘She makes me cocoa really nicely’

‘I like her because she watches me’

‘Donna watched me on the monkey bars’

‘Donna’s scones are really delicious’

‘Donna does good manners!’

‘She pushes me on the swing’

‘I love Donna because she is the best teacher’

‘I love Donna so much’

Here is the slideshow for you all to watch, of Donna over the years :)

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
 Mark Twain 

Hei konā mai, Christine