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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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Monday, 27 August 2012

Using balance scales to explore mathematics

Today we dragged out our old balance scales to explore. They needed a little bit of attention, so we added two baskets (one to each end) and attached them with some wire. At this point both baskets were empty and of course level with each other on the scales – they were balanced.

We initially began to discuss the concept of ‘why does the basket go down’ when just one glass bead is placed in it. This led to some really good thinking, some great dialogue and it was clear to see the children developing their understanding about how these scales worked.

Makenzie “If you put more in here it won’t be the same level, cause ones down and ones up, cause there’s too much in here

Pesiki “When you add the bead the basket, it’s going down. There’s nothing in the basket then it will get heavy (when the bead is added)”

Katie “This one goes down more as it’s the heaviest

Ryan L “When nothing's in them, it’s going to be the same height

Sharing and discussing ideas and listening to new perspectives

We familiarised ourselves with the scales, using different objects, the same objects, large and small objects in the baskets, all the while trying to predict what would happen.  A real surprise occurred when someone put one of our heavy but relatively small butterfly beads in one basket and a large pine cone in the other basket. All the children predicted the pine cone’s basket would go down, meaning it was heavier. But no, it was the glass bead that was heavier than the pine cone. This lead to some lengthy discussion about the size, weight and density of objects.  

After some more experimenting the children discovered that sometimes even though an object is large, it can still be light.

Constructing knowledge

As the morning went on and we had explored heavy and light we tried to work on finding different objects that would weigh the same. What a tricky task this was. In one basket went Tyler's globe, and we all estimated how many glass butterflies we would need to add to the other basket to make them balance. Our observations were then recorded through a simple chart.

Trial and error 




Working collaboratively with others
Here Ollie holds the scales still while the baskets get filled up with objects. After everyone has checked the contents and after some careful thought decided which basket they think is the heaviest, Ollie lets go. Hmm...who will be right?

Counting and sorting

Mathematical learning involves ‘exploring objects, materials, and events by acting upon them and noticing what happens’ and ‘engaging in simple investigations in which children make predictions, gather and interpret data, recognise patterns and draw conclusions’ (Ann Epstein, 2007)


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Into the river

We have had weeks of winter rain and drizzly weather lately. So the promise of sunshine inspired us to 'let the river flow'.

The first task when getting the river ready is to fill the trough with water. Our river runs by recirculating water through pipes then pumping it back down the riverbed. This provides us with both moving water and sustainable practice (an important part of our Kindergarten's focus).

As the water trough filled, it was time to take off socks and shoes and roll up trouser legs. There was also lots of discussion about the temperature of the water 'I wonder if it's gonna be cold?'

It sure was! And to begin with there was lots of leaping, gasps and curled up toes.

As the water from the trough flowed into the riverbed an idea was raised to block the flow with a damn.

Building a damn is a great opportunity for collaboration and team work.

Stacking stones to fill gaps engages problem solving skills

With the damn built it was time to test it out. The team gave the countdown and the pump was switched on to shouts of Hooray!

As the flow ebbed it's way down the river the industrious work of damn building soon changed to deeper engagement with the water.

Moving water arouses curiousity and invokes imagination as children question, explore and predict what might happen next.

Pumpimg water by hand
adds to the flow and requires
lots of muscle work.

Floating flowers helps to track the current and provides early science concepts.


Water play (even when a bit chilly!) is an essential element to nature education. Water delights the senses and engages the mind. It is a true gift from Nature which is throughly loved at Kindergarten.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Sand Art

Last Friday after a ‘happy accident’ of some sand finding its way to our light box table (with some amazing effects), we decided to explore this idea a little further.

Using a container to stop the sand from falling all over the floor, the children spent the day using their creativity to manipulate the sand as they wished. 

There were lots of patterns created, swirls, loops, dots, pictures drawn and even some writing. Children went from using just one finger to work the sand; to having both their hands moved by the momentum of their body, controlling the direction and results of the sand.
Today wishing to extend the children’s thinking further, I showed them some video clips I came across – (check out the one below), I’m sure you’ll agree it's amazing stuff.

This clip further provoked the children’s thinking and consequently the use of the sand.  I was able to see them experimenting with their creations whilst also hearing some imaginative stories being incorporated into their work.

Ryan, “I’m going swirl, swirl. I’m making a roller coaster”

Jaxon, “It’s so big, look at this, it’s a tail and a head, it’s a gruffosauraus, that’s a dinosaur

Adding jewels and tiny crochet flowers creates more possibilities for design

Whilst the transformation of the sand into letters and pictures enables the children to extend themselves creatively, this experience is also a great way into which to support motor skill development, in particular fine motor skills.

Enabling children to use their meta-cognitive skills, as they create what they know, not what they see.

Creating, imagining, innovating

Fine motor skills, or small motor movements, are most commonly thought of as the skills we do with our hands. Fine motor skills affect children in many ways. Children require fine motor skills for many aspects of life, from picking up food in order to feed themselves; to manipulating zips and buttons, to holding paint brushes, pencils and scissors. It is not surprising to know then, that fine motor skills are directly related to handwriting ability – without strong developed muscles in our fingers and hands, we are not able to hold pens and pencils correctly in order to learn to write or draw.

Because this is such an important aspect of a child’s development and education, we create many opportunities at Mairtown through a range of resources for children to use and strengthen their fine motor skills.

Providing a soothing sensory experience

A creative way to explore shadows, light and texture. 


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Engagement for Boys in Art

Here at Mairtown of late we have been finding that some of our boys' interests are providing us with fresh opportunities in regard to our choice of art provocations.  Art is a big focus here and its great to have some new ideas coming through to keep us thinking about what we are providing for our children in this subject area.

Ryan kick started this experience with his request to paint a tractor.  When he had finished his work he took the time to explain just how he went about creating his artwork.  This got me thinking about possible provocations that could further engage him in the art studio.

So, with paintings and photos of tractors being provided as provocations in the art studio, tractors became quite a hit.  Samuel produced a detailed series of works which we have displayed in pride of place on our centre wall.

Jaxon provided some new inspiration when he created a train world complete with plans that he drew himself

When photos of model railways and visual artworks based on trains were set up as a provocation we got to see some fabulous results of the children's engagement.  Individuality was expressed so well, with each child's pictures revealing facets of their own interests and personalities.

Not everyone was impressed though.  William let us know that he preferred planes when he brought a book out to the table and began to use it as his chosen subject matter for drawing.

Lucas and his mum helped us out with more interesting ideas.  Lucas had been looking at some art books at home and told his mum that boys don't just like to paint cars but they also like to paint bridges, train stations, and animals.  Armed with some more great information to draw from, we extended our ideas by looking at some horse paintings by Franz Marc.

We have seen some beautiful and original works of art produced by our very talented children.  We have looked into what might engage boys in the art studio and look forward to continuing that investigation.  We have also learnt that boys also like to draw and paint butterflies and girls draw awesome dinosaurs.

By Rachel.