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, 14 August 2019


“When one tugs a single thing in nature, 
he finds it attached to the rest of the world” 
– John Muir

As we have recently joined the Enviroschools movement and reflected for Bronze accreditation, we have been thinking about how we can support the children grow their environmental awareness. Part of my teacher inquiry also involved supporting children to “develop a strong vision of themselves as kaitiaki for a sustainable future”.

During a professional discussion with a colleage I was challenged to look into the meaning of kaitiaki. What understanding did the children have of this concept? How could we support them to become kaitiaki for our future unless they had a strong knowledge of this role? I began some small group inquiry work with the children, inviting them to share with me their ideas around what it means to be a kaitiaki and how we show this in our actions. I then invited the children to create art showing their idea’s around the role of kaitiaki.

Ezra: We catch rats in rat traps

Mana: We could look after bees cause them make honey. Cause we always need to be gentle to bees when we see them.

Grace: We can look after sharks because in a boo from Elsie's library at school, people are catching sharks. I saw a few sharks on Blue Planet. 

As we run a very successful nature programme at Mairtown Kindergarten, and we incorporate environmentally sustainable practice into our programme, my initial thinking was that our children would be quite knowledgeable in this area and would have lots of knowledge to share with me. To begin with this was true, as our wonderful environmental warriors had sustainability at the forefront of their mind!

Anna: We could garden the soil and plant carrots

Patrick: Keeping earth nice

Jesse: Kaitiaki means you guard something

Ezra: Catching rats in rat traps

Teddie: Yeah and looking after the baby eggs

Bella: Don’t throw any rubbish on the road

Nikos: If we don’t have a world we won’t have anywhere to live

Levi: I make sure I don't step on the flowers because the bees need them

Bella: At Kindergarten we clean the easels

But then a different theme emerged, as many of our children began to talk about being “kaitiaki of the people” and nurturing and protecting the wairua of those around them so that as a collective, we can thrive.

Jesse: We care for our friends and the teachers. We can send presents to people, that will make them feel really happy if we sent people a card. That's being kaitiaki of the people

Joshua: Kaitiaki is being kind to people

Gabrielle: Remember the other time when I was looking after people at Kindergarten? That is kaitiaki

Sharlee-Bea: I look after my sister. Take care of her and have a snuggle on the couch

It was so interesting that the children naturally took this holistic view and seemed to know that the environment and those living within it could not succeed unless in mutuality. This relates to a Māori worldview of kaitiakitanga which considers the well-being of natural resources to be directly related to the well-being of the people. Having this vision of what it means to be a kaitiaki at Mairtown has opened our minds to new possibilities within our wider community. One of the guiding principles or ngā mātāpono of the Enviroschools kaupapa is to create sustainable communities. These are communities which “act in ways which nurture people now and into the future”

Gabrielle: Remember the other time when I was looking after people at Kindergarten? That is kaitiaki

Millar-Rose: We have baby bunnies and we have to look after them because eagles might get them because did you know, we have eagles in our town. We love every animals in the whole entire world

“Without a doubt our most significant resource and potential lies in our people and so looking into the future, how we nurture and support each other’s potential and how we plan for the future will have a significant bearing on what we achieve for ourselves and future generations 

(Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, 2010, p.4)

One of the reasons why I absolutely love teaching in Kindergarten is because our children see things in amazing ways, and I learn so much from them! I feel like the most important moment in this learning for me has come from the words of one of our beautiful 4 year olds, Florence. I think she has encapsulated the essence of kaitiakitanga and of environmental education and I would like to leave you with her poignant words...

Florence: I’m going to be a kaitiaki of the whole wide world. Do you know that’s a huge job for one person, but everyone can help


Thursday, 4 July 2019

Welcome Hedwig

"Hedwig" Artist: Bella

Sadly, as we said farewell to Christine at the end of last term, we also said goodbye to Bluey our Blue Tongue Lizard. Bluey left with Christine to join her in her new adventures with a different group of children to care for him and love him.

This meant that at Mairtown, we found ourselves without a pet!

We have always placed high value on the learning that children gain through interacting with and caring for animals within the Kindergarten environment. In the past we have cared for fish, tadpoles, frogs and then Bluey the lizard.

The animal is a conduit for learning to be human: Some propose that it is only through the animal that we recognise our humanity (Jill Bone, 2003)

Because we had experienced the joy, and learning that takes place through caring for a pet, we decided that our Kindergarten could offer a loving home for a new pet.
And so it is my pleasure to introduce … Hedwig the Cockatiel!

Lots of learning took place before Hedwig even arrived at Mairtown. He is only a baby and although we chose him (or he chose us) we needed to wait until he was old enough to leave his breeder. We used this time to learn about Cockatiels – what kind of food they like, the care they need, their behaviour, how they like to be handled and what kind of interactions they prefer. We had many discussions with the children, both in small groups and at whānau time about the arrival of Hedwig.

Hedwig learning about Cockatiels

We also used this time to decide on his name. Names are so very important and are part of our identity. We believe they help define who we are and where we come from. They are part of our essence. So with this in mind, we knew Hedwig would need a special name and we knew our whole community needed to be involved in choosing it.

The process of naming Hedwig

We began by asking the children for their ideas for a name for our pet bird. They came up with a creative and wonderful long list of suggestions. We whittled it down to a favourite 5 names and then began the process of voting so that everyone in the community had a chance to contribute.

Our list of 5 top names put out to a vote were: Bonfire, Rocket, Griffin, Hedwig and Ruffy-rat-snap. Hedwig was a very clear winner once the voting concluded. This name was suggested by Fern and her Mum Emma. It was inspired by their love of Harry Potter, as Harry has a faithful and determined pet owl called Hedwig.

Hedwig loves his head scratches and Fern and Emma get them juuuuust right (he told me)

Hedwig's first (warm) bath

As Hedwig has settled in to Kindergarten life we have learned a lot about each other. The children have been very impressive with the way they have thought about Hedwig’s needs and how he might be feeling within different situations. Of course many of our children have animals at home so may be used to looking after pets, but for many of our children this responsibility and thinking of something other than themselves is very new.

"I love making him things" - Holly

"He snuggles me under the neck and I love how everyone holds him and that he plays with me.
I love him because he loves me!" - Millar-Rose

Empathy is such an important skill to develop, and this opportunity to practice empathy within our Kindergarten programme is extremely valuable. Research tells us that ‘Empathy, the ability to understand others and feel compassion for them, is arguably the most defining human quality – setting us apart from…other animals. Without it, we couldn’t function in social areas such as schools… and office workplaces that are the cornerstones of our society… it is at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element of emotional intelligence the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. Empathy goes far beyond sympathy, which might be considered ‘feeling for’ someone. Empathy, instead, is ‘feeling with’ that person, through the use of imagination (world.edu global education network, 2016).

Hedwig helping the teachers in the office

Hedwig has been embraced by our children and our community and the manaakitanga or care that Mairtown is known for has absolutely been shown to Hedwig. On our Matariki Harvest day Fern’s family brought in some harvest vegetables from their own garden especially for Hedwig, we have had Jayden’s lovely whānau donate a cosy bed for Hedwig’s cage and offer to share their knowledge of birds with us, many many children have made gifts of love for Hedwig, and drawn beautiful pictures for him and of him.

Hedwig's delicious Harvest Day gifts

I believe Hedwig feels this aroha or love towards him and he rewards us with beautiful singing and cuddles. He is also very cheeky and outgoing and really makes the children laugh. I think I can speak for all of us when I say he has truly captured our hearts.

"I like it when he talks at whānau time!" - Taikura

Having a pet…gives children the opportunity to observe, interact and learn about animals. It can be a valuable part of a child’s education and care experience, enriching their learning about nature, ecology and relationships (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority)


Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Fire day Thursday cooking on an open fire

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year, where the leaves start to fall off the trees and more importantly the temperature starts to cool down to winter.  These are exciting times for us at kindergarten as we patiently wait for the weather to change and the temperature drop so we can start our open fire for cooking.  

There is certainly something special about sitting around the fire on a cool winter’s day, cooking delicious food.  That is exactly what we do at Mairtown kindergarten; during our cool winter months we hold our greatly anticipated ‘Fire Thursday’. 

This is our eighth year of holding weekly fires every Thursday morning during term two and three.  Now it is truly a well-loved tradition at kindergarten and our children fondly know Thursday as ‘Fire Thursday’.  

The creation of fire is an essential factor of a Nature programme.  It is one of the four elements and provides opportunities for children to experience success and self-accomplishment when starting a fire from scratch that will ultimately cook food.

I love how our fire day provides our children with so much valuable learning.  Well before the first fire is lit, we engage with our kindergarten community to discuss our plans to minimise risks associated with having fire.  During the build up to the first fire we engage with our children to share and discuss thoughts of how to keep safe around fire. It so lovely to see our children who have experienced ‘Fire Thursday’, take on the role of leadership in sharing the rules and reflecting about what they enjoy.

Whānau time provides an excellent opportunity to have discussions and share ideas about how to be safe around the fire.  We actually bring our fire (not lit) inside onto our mat, where we get our children to role model how to keep themselves safe around the fire. Keeping everyone safe is our key priority, one of the many measures we have in place is a safety bubble that is drawn around our fire.  

Important rules that our children shared;
No balls or toys or they might go in the fire.” said Liam
“Walking feet around the fire, cause if you run you might get burnt.” said Sullivan
“No running past the fire.”  said Amalia
“No scarfs or capes, no floating stuff near the fire cause if it’s windy you might get burnt.” said Taikura  
“If you be silly near the fire, the teachers will tell you to go away.” said Bella
“Two teachers need to be at the fire if only one teacher you have to wait on the sleep.”  said Teddie
“Only the teachers are allowed in the safety bubble children have to stay out.”  said Willow

I think it is brilliant how our children seem to have a sense of responsibility for their own well-being and that of others.  I know that our children are excellent at remembering the rules and are quick to point out if I am wearing a scarf on fire day.  Wisdom Commons describes responsibility as ownership and committing ourselves to lead, to create, to solve problems and then following through.  It involves taking risks and working hard.  Being responsible can be daunting but also rewarding.  (Wisdom Commons)

Our children are involved throughout the process of preparing the fire, and all have great expertise and knowledge of what is required to get the fire going.  There are always keen helpers to scrunch the newspaper, kindling to cut and lay ready for the teachers to light.  Of course there is the food to prepare too and our children can choose to be involved with measuring the ingredients, working the dough and picking the rosemary to cut it and add to the oil. 

Cooking is all about people.  Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together.  No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.  Guy Fieri

The key purpose of our fire is to cook kai; so far this season we have had a particular favourite of the homemade garlic and rosemary bread (including gluten-free).  Previously our menu has also included cheese toasties, pikelets and delicious little sausages.

Sometimes once the fire is lit it can take a little while for the fire to heat up enough to start cooking.  These times can provide the perfect opportunity for our children to practice their patient muscles while they wait for their turn to cook.  I believe it is a valuable lifelong skill to learn patience and know that they will eventually get to cook.  Childspace explains Patience is about waiting and having confidence in a positive outcome.  When we are patient we are able and willing to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.  We work with quiet, steady perseverance and diligence.

 One thing I love about winter is having a fire and I know Fire Thursday is very much looked forward to by many.  It is wonderful to sit around the lovely warm fire on a cool winter’s day, to sit and chat or sing with each other and cook delicious kai, hopefully creating many new memories and skills for lifelong learning.

Everybody loves fire!  Fire is amazing, beautiful and warm.  It has historically brought people together.  It’s where you come to make food and sing and tell stories.  (Eric Westervelt, April 3, 2015)

Ngā mihi, Susie

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Our new kaiako - Welcome to Hanna

This week we were lucky enough to welcome the wonderful Hanna Bramley into our teaching team and our kindergarten community.

Hanna and her new friends, helping her feel welcome at Mairtown

Hanna is a very friendly, engaging and welcoming person who has a great passion for teaching. She is enthusiastic, kind, motivated and has children’s best interests at the heart of everything that she does. Hanna is also resourceful and loves to tackle projects with the children. She has a wonderful sense of humour and is just a wonderful person to be around.

Our Kindergarten family waiting for Hanna's arrival

“There are no strangers here, just friends who haven’t met.” (Roald Dahl)

Hanna is new to Whāngarei and was looking for a teaching team that was supportive and welcoming. After visiting Mairtown and getting this vibe, she decided to apply for the job and we are so glad that she did. On her first official day at Mairtown our community come together to welcome Hanna with a mihi whakatau.

“A mihi whakatau is a welcome that can provide a sound basis for any kindergarten event whereby people are greeted in a less formal manner than that of a Pōwhiri… Mihi whakatau is traditionally used for welcoming, introductions, openings and general purpose which take place off the marae.  The mihi whakatau is a process which will protect Māori cultural practices while promoting an environment of inclusiveness.” (Roimata Macfarlane, 2016)

This was a lovely occasion and it was delightful to have many of our whānau stay for the special welcome. Hanna brought along some important people in her life to be with her through this process. After everyone had an opportunity to introduce themselves and sung waiata we then shared a delicious kai together.

Hanna’s first week has come and gone and already she has proved to be very engaging with everyone, making connections with the children, their whānau and her new colleagues. We are looking forward to all that Hanna has to offer our community and know that she has a wealth of knowledge and kindness to share.

Portrait of Hanna - Artist, Sharlee Bea.

He aroha whakatō,
he aroha puta mai
If kindness is sown, then kindness you should receive

Nāku noa, nā,