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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Friday, 20 May 2016

Our library day supports literacy development

Recently at Mairtown we have re-established our children’s library.   This is where we have a system to put our collection of books on offer to our children.  Once a week, currently every Thursday, the children have the opportunity to look through a selection of our books and choose one to take home in a named book bag to read and share with their whānau.

The thing I love about working in a community based early childhood education is all the fantastic parental support we receive at Mairtown.  Our library day is made possible and is successful due to our amazing parent helpers who set up and organise the library.  We are very fortunate to have such wonderful support from our families who willingly volunteer their time to come in and share the role of librarian.

“The experiences a young child has now effects them for a lifetime.  Thus it is never too soon to introduce children to books.  Children need to have experiences with books each and every day, including time for being read to and time for reading or looking at books by themselves.”  (Angie Dorrell, 2007)

It’s lovely to be part of a teaching team who are all passionate about the benefits of sharing books and stories, and believe that exposure to books is important for all children and their future learning and education.

Te Whāriki states that children develop an expectation that words and books can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform, and excite.

Not only does our library day create exposure to books it is a great way to support our children with transitioning to school.  Upon entering primary school children will be expected to have a book bag to take home reading books.  Our library day creates a wonderful opportunity for our children to gain familiarity with book bags and taking books and returning them, as well as assisting with the transition from kindergarten to school.

Experts agree that the prevalence of books in the home fosters a desire to read in children.  The more books and other reading materials that are available, the more children will value reading. (Lynn Dean, 2007).

Library day is always an exciting time, where our children seem thrilled about being able to choose a book to take home and share with their whānau.  At Mairtown we treasure books and stories as it is such a great way to encourage an early interest and love of books, so important for future learning and literacy development.

Literacy learning does not ‘begin at school’; it begins at birth.  Caring families foster and applaud children’s early achievements and early childhood educators complement and enhance this important learning which underpins school and life success.  (Jenni Connor, 2011).

Here are some of our children’s thoughts about books and our library day:
Sadie:  “I like our library day.  I got a kittens and cat book.  I like cats and dogs so I got it.  Sometimes I have stories in bed when I go to bed early.  Sometimes my Mum and Dad make stories up’.
Pippa C:  “I like taking books home, my Mum reads to me at night time.  Sometimes my sister reads to me when Mum does the dishes.”

Danielia:  “We take a book home then we have to bring it back.  My Mumma and Dadda read to me, I’m going to take that book home.”

Maximus:  “I like book day, we only take our library books home not any of the other books.  We don’t take our library bus books home.”

Kaden:  “My Daddy always reads to me every night and my Mum reads to me in the daytime.”
Lali:  “My book was about a chocolate.  The sun found the chocolate it melted, then the ants found it.”

Milla:  “My book was about hide ‘n’ seek.  My Mummy read it to me.  I really really love books.”

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” May Ellen Chase

Mā te wā

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Where do stories live?

For the rest of this year I am undertaking some research at Mairtown with the help and support of the rest of the teaching team, our whānau and community and of course the children themselves. This story began last year, when I was fortunate enough to win an eFellowship through Core Education. Of course those that know me, will be aware that the arts and creativity within early childhood education have always been a deep interest of mine and through my research, I feel that the next step for me is to look at the arts in early childhood through a variety of materials (for instance drama, paint, clay, photography, song, dance) observe how children engage playfully with them, and note whether these interactions can lead to children creating stories. Ultimately this research will be focused on whether these playful interactions and story making can impact positively on a child’s oral language development, overall literacy learning and agency (When children have a sense of agency they have the ability to make their own decisions and to control their own lives. Having a sense of agency is an important part of a strong sense of identity).

Currently I am at the very beginning of this research and in this blog I just wanted to share a snippet of what has been happening to date. So to begin, back in term 1, we as a team began some work with the children regarding their stories. Many children enthusiastically begun to explore this idea, creating their own stories using the different materials available to them. However, as I observed the children working, I noticed that the stories created mainly took the form of books which led me to wonder how we could expand the children’s definition of what stories are, what stories can be, and where stories originate from. To broaden their understanding of what a story is, as well as what it means to be a storyteller, I began to investigate alongside the children, the question Where do stories live?

Our conversations together have been thoughtful and very enlightening. At times there has been a fair amount of disagreement, but that has been respectfully discussed and talked through. When we first looked at this question, the answers from all the children were very similar:
Stories live in books, stories live in the library.

Children need time to talk about storytelling and story making and they need good listeners too (Stevens, 2012)

Then several days later as we looked together at maps and how they are able to tell people information, I asked another question ‘Could a map be considered a story?’ At first this question was met with a resounding ‘No’! but after a fair bit of pondering, some children began to say yes - although at this point the consensus was still very much ‘No’. It wasn’t until a few days later, with lots more discussion, and the important creation of their own maps, that each child decided that actually - yes - maps could be a story. Once the children considered a map as a story it appeared to open and broaden their minds and thinking of what stories are and where they live.

Pippa C: Pictures are stories.
Sienna: Clay can tell a story, and photographs, and books. Sculptures are stories and maps.
Wolfgang: Stories aren’t just in books, they come from the Lego as the Lego is magic.
Sienna: Stories can be real and they don’t have to be real…they come from your brain.

As time has passed and the children have been invited to share their stories as they work with different materials, the question ‘Where do stories live’ is certainly being answered in a very different way, and more and more stories are being created with whatever materials the children have to hand.

Storytelling and story making is a truly social experience as children and familiar adults collaborate together (Stevens, 2012)

I would like to share some of these beautiful stories with you – stories that come from children as they play with resources or create drawings.

This is a beautiful heart map created by Sienna.

This is my fairy heart map and this is its story. There are fairies, fairy doors and fairy dust – the stars are the fairy dust. There are 5 fairies, they are very special fairies, they do harvesting. They harvest acorns and nuts. Each fairy door belongs to just one fairy. There isn’t just one fairy, there’s a whole family of fairies’.

And this story on dinosaurs comes from Matthew’s drawing:

This Stenonychosaurus, he has long tail for fighting and he has spikes as he is very strong and he spikes holes, his spikes can eat him. He black and white. Velociraptor, he ate other dinosaurs, he ate this triceratops. He is green. Pentaceratops, he ate paper, the head is for fighting, he fight other dinosaurs, he is yellow and brown. Stegosaurus – he ate dinosaur name. He spikes for fighting the Pentaceratops, but he can’t fight it as Pentaceratops is too big and strong.

Kalani played with collage as he told me his detailed story.

Once there was two rocks and then a big big big big a small small thingy came and then a rock came and there was a storm and there was snakes and two snakes and the snakes wriggled each other and the storm blowed them away. And then they were gone forever and then a dancing rubber band came and then it fell over and then there was a big big big big big explosion from a volcano and it blowed everything away. And then a alien came and it hided under a rock and a family of eyes came and they just wobbled along and went on the rocks so people don’t know where the eyes are. Then some more snakes came and there was another storm and they blew away (this is a pretty long story) then there was a big big big big earthquake and then a small rock rolled around all over the place and then it crashed into the big boulder. Then a big big big long long long long long snakehippopotamus came. It’s a pretty funny story! The end.

And finally this beautiful story by Aurelia was created as she worked with clay to make a giraffe.

This is Sparkles.
She is pink cause she’s going to a party.
There is going to be lots of lollies.
There’s going to be lots of people.
There is going to be lots of dogs and cats,
and the dogs are going to be teasing the cats.
And that’s the end.

So to answer our own question – Where do stories live? – at the moment we know that stories live in sculptures, in maps, in collage, in books, in drawings and paintings, in movies,  in puppets, in dreams, in songs and in Lego. We certainly haven’t finished with this question yet, and I can’t wait to discover where else we may find some hidden stories.

Stories have the power to bring a community together
(Harris MacKay, 2013).

Ngā mihi nui,

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Happy holidays

Last week at kindergarten there was extra excitement as we received a special delivery of our new ukuleles.  Our tamariki appeared very delighted to finally have these wonderful instruments back at kindergarten and seemed especially happy to know that it was all made possible through their own hard work at the wheels-a-thon and all the tremendous sponsorship they received.

There are many benefits to exposing children to musical experiences, something that we value highly and are passionate about at Mairtown, as research states;

Music ignites all areas of child development; intellectual, social and emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy.  It helps the body and the mind work together.  Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. 

More benefits of music for children include learning cooperation, sharing, compromise, creativity, and concentration – skills that become invaluable as they enter school, face new challenges and begin to form new friendships and develop social skills. (Bright Horizons, 2010)

The end of term is fast approaching as this is the last week of kindergarten for term one.  On behalf of the teaching team we wish everyone happy holidays during the term break and look forward to seeing you all refreshed and ready for term two Monday 2nd May 2016.
Ngā mihi nui
The Mairtown teaching team 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Mairtown Kindergarten's Nature Programme: Five Years Running

At Mairtown Kindergarten we have been running a successful Nature Programme since July 2011. This involves 10 of our oldest children heading into our local park for the 4 hour session on a Friday. The children are dropped off and picked up from the Banff Street entrance to the beautiful Mair Park. This has become an integral part of who we are as a kindergarten, giving our early childhood service a point of difference.
Come rain or shine the children brave the elements and head out with a group of their peers, a teacher, Sarah (our nature programme coordinator) and a parent or whānau helper and have their kindergarten session in the bush. The nature programme has been set up to extend on our learning curriculum and provide the children with opportunities beyond what we can offer in our kindergarten. The local park that we have access to is made up of beautiful, dense native bush, full of kauri, manuka, puriri and punga trees to name a few. There are spaces that feel intimate under the wonderful tree top canopy and spaces that are open and airy. It also has the splendid Hatea River that runs through the middle of it. All this natural splendour is something that we appreciate greatly and enjoy during our time in the bush.

Our Nature Programme is about enhancing children’s connection with nature and all it has to offer. Learning is provided spontaneously and organically by Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) and the natural variety that exists in the bush, in addition to its ever changing seasons and endless opportunities for discovery, makes it the ideal location for genuine on-going learning.
“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and full use of the sense” (Louv, 2008)
Every week that we go into the bush the experience is different. The children take the lead and in an un-hurried manner negotiate where they would like to go on the day. Our time in the bush is effected by many contexts, for example which children are in the group, which teacher is on the programme or what the weather is doing. Some days are full of trekking through the beautiful bush, busily finding spaces to explore, to climb, to jump from, to slide down as the children actively interact with the environment. While other days take on a slower pace, sitting down, quietly playing amongst the beautiful bush and taking in the environment. The time in the bush is invigorating for all involved, however it also leaves us a little exhausted by the time we get back to the top of the hill where our families are awaiting our return after a morning in the bush.

“The natural world is a playground and place of discovery for adults and children
alike . . . it is a place for adventure, exploration and imagination as well as generating a deepening care and connectedness with our environment.” (DoC NZ)

Our Nature Programme success is credited to the dedication from our community. To make this programme happen week to week we require at least one parent or whānau helper to join us to keep our ratios in check.  We have a wonderful response from our families when filling up our roster of helpers from term to term. We are truly grateful for the ongoing support that we receive from our families.

Some of our kindergarten families have provided feedback for us as to what the Nature Programme has meant to them.
“There is so much to do and it is great that whilst the learning and exploration was self-determined by the kids they had very structured rules and guidelines that are obviously reinforced every week – I saw this as a great strength to the programme and to cement the children’s knowledge of safety and kaitiakitanga.”
“Our kindergarten is a pioneer in the Nature Programme here in the North. It is our point of difference- which in turn gives those children participating a gift that lasts a life time.”

We are also incredibly lucky to have Sarah on the programme every week in the role of Nature Programme Coordinator. This is made possible because we have been successful in receiving a COG’s grant over the past few years. Sarah’s role is invaluable and she is such an asset to the success of our Nature Programme. Sarah is the continuous person every week who is able to share knowledge about what has been happening, where the children have been exploring and what their interests have been.

Being out in community is another aspect of the Nature Programme that we hold dear to our heart. Our Nature Programme is promoting not only our own kindergarten in a positive light but also the Northland Kindergarten Association. We have had quite a number of children enrol at our kindergarten after they have come across our group in Mair Park. We have also had many families enrol specifically at our kindergarten to attend the Nature Programme after hearing about it from others in the community. We have had numerous early childhood educators from within our kindergarten association, as well as from other services in Northland and even as far afield as Australia, come and observe how we run our Nature Programme. This interest is an indicator of how worthwhile and forward thinking this programme is.

In the book ‘Learning with Nature: Embedding outdoor practice, Claire Warden (2015) acknowledges that, “Children need all the adults around them to understand why outdoor learning is essential for them. A practitioner’s attitude, understanding and commitment will be key to the development of child-led experiences. Adults need to harness the special nature of outside and be responsive to the day-to-day changes nature offers.”

We believe that time spent in the bush on the Nature Programme will instil a love of the outdoors in the children that experience it and support them in gaining a meaningful understanding of all the wonderful, magical, beautiful things that nature has to offer. For this reason we will work to make sure our Nature Programme stays the same and stays a part of our high quality early childhood programme at Mairtown Kindergarten.
“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” (Berry)

Ngā mihi nui,
Zair Taylor