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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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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A study of Morepork's

Over the past month we have been investigating the form, shape and details of Moreporks.

The Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is New Zealand’s only surviving native owl. Its European name (morepork) and Māori name (ruru) both echo its two-part cry. Many of our children are familiar with hearing this cry at dusk, in their neighbourhoods.

Our first study of Moreporks was inspired by this photograph taken in 1995 by New Zealand photographer; Lawrence Aberhart. This is an intriguing photograph as the birds look real, however they are stuffed and are part of the bird collection in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Armed with black ink pens and white paper the children draw from observation after close investigation and discussion of the birds in the photograph.

Drawing from observation invites children to look closely at things and encourages them to make more detailed drawings. In today’s group the feature that was most prominent for the children were the Morepork’s eyes.

As time passed we offered children opportunities to revisit their original work and this time presented coloured images of moreporks along with paint.

Paint can enhance children’s art by bringing a new level of detail and texture to their work.
As the children became more familiar with the shape and details of the morepork, further self-initiated artworks went on to be created.

We view our role as teachers to be co-explorers, investigators and provokers. After observing that a small group had developed a repertoire for drawing and paintwork of moreporks in 2D, we decided to offer clay as a medium to further explore ideas and thinking in 3D.

Akke and Rachel
At this point in our enquiry, it was time to call in an ‘expert’. Akke Tiemersma is a local potter and clay extraordinaire from Ngunguru. She is also a familiar face in our Kindergarten from past capital works and the potter who makes our tui’s (gifted to the children when they leave).

Calling in experts to share their knowledge and expertise is a wonderful way for us all to benefit as a community of learners.

Using an extension from a pinch pot method (which many of the children are already familiar with) Akke guided and supported the children to sculpt white clay into individual moreporks.

Simple tools were used to create details and features. Combs run over clay make wonderful feather patterns, whilst wooden sticks and nails are excellent for eye impressions.

Some children were happy with one morepork, while others were inspired to make 2 or 3. Like Akke said “It’s always good to make two. You make one and it’s a practice, when you make two it becomes different”.


These beautiful sculptures are now drying out ready to be glazed and fired. As this week is the last week of term 3, our project will continue into term 4 where we plan to create an exhibition of all the completed artworks. Like the common ‘ruru’ call of the morepork, this heralds good news.

Ka kite ano (see you again)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Melbourne Study Tour Overview

Last week I was lucky enough to take part in a study tour over in Melbourne. This was an event for teachers organised by REANZ (Reggio Emilia Aotearoa New Zealand) and was a truly valuable and inspiring tour for me, which also provoked and, at times, challenged my thinking.

Myself and the rest of the NKA teachers after a  days seminar at Melbourne University

To give a little background, Reggio Emilia is a city in Italy, which has become synonymous for it's quality of early childhood education. As a teaching philosophy, at Mairtown, we draw from many aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach.  This unique approach to early childhood education was founded by Loris Malaguzzi, a teacher himself, along with the parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia shortly after after World War II.  After the destruction of their villages and homes in the war, Malaguzzi and the rest of the community felt they needed to educate their children in a different manner. Their aim was to encourage a higher level of critical thinking, exploration and discovery through principles of respect, responsibility, and community in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children.

Waiting for a tram - we did a great deal of this!

A display at one of the centres we visited
So began our tour! I was lucky enough to be travelling with 5 other teachers from the Northland Kindergarten Association, who proved to be totally invaluable for end of day discussions and reflections on what we had seen/heard (as well of course as being great dinner and shopping partners!).

Some collaborative art work by 4 year olds
Over the course of the five days we were kept busy and our brains stimulated. We engaged in talks by Margo Hobba and Chris Celada on pedagogical documentation from the University of Melbourne; as well as having the opportunity to visit four early childhood centres (Cornish College, Pope Road Kindergarten, St Michaels Grammar School and Abbotsford early learning centre), as well as the beautiful children’s botanic gardens in Melbourne.

Aesthetics and providing children with beautiful environments is an important aspect of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, and certainly all the centres we visited had created stunning classrooms which had been carefully considered by the teachers there.

"Children are miracles...we must make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle"
 (Anita Rui Olds)

The diversity of the centres we visited, along with the passion of our speakers truly made this tour very memorable; I know that there is so much I have gained that will be with me forever. I have returned to Mairtown keen to share my experiences with an added enthusiasm and inspiration for providing the children here with the best possible teaching I can.

"This is a gifted child for whom we need a gifted teacher...a co-constructor of knowledge, values and understanding together with children; a cultured curious person which means an inveterate border crosser, a researcher with an enquiring and critical mind" (Malaguzzi).

Display of worry dolls
Use of natural open ended materials on a light table
This blog post, although looking lengthy (!) doesn’t really do justice to the study tour, so I have put together a small book which is on display at Kindergarten. If you would like to know more, and remember I would love to share my experiences with you, please feel free to come and ask me any questions you may have.


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Swing Ball!

Here at Mairtown we were presented with a very thoughtful surprise from one of our families.  This gift was unwrapped at yesterday afternoons group time, causing a great deal of excitement.  Everyone went home with a sense of anticipation that the next day at kindergarten we would be setting up and using this wonderful new resource.


So, today dawned as the day of the great Swingball unveiling.  After some initial untangling as we got set up, the games soon began.

We were then treated to some fine displays of athletic prowess requiring concentration, determination,gross and fine motor skills, eye tracking, and some serious muscular strength and exertion--phew!   


The new equipment proved to be so popular that soon a large crowd had gathered, all eagerly awaiting their turn.  We found that we had to practice a lot of waiting.

We decided that there were so many people that we really needed to write a list to keep track of whose turn it was now and who would be going next.  That was the easiest way to keep track of so many of us taking turns.

Keeping track of who was up next and who needed to be crossed off the list was hard work but we managed thanks to great organisational skills and some top reading.

But, there was always some great action to look out for as we waited, picking up tips for play along the way, "stand back", "watch the ball", "it goes round and round so fast!".


Thanks so much for your wonderful gift Kim.  We certainly found out that a few rounds of Swing Ball can provide us with many great learning opportunities.  By the end of the morning we were even experts at counting backwards from ten.  But really importantly we all had so much fun shared laughter with our friends!