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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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Making Connections with Nature

One of my professional development goals over this last year as a teacher was to write an article, with the hope of having it published.

A passion of mine, and of the other teachers at Mairtown, is the environment that we provide for our attending children. The environment both inside and out should be carefully planned to engage children, to develop their curiosity, to develop their imagination and sense of wonder, ideally all within a nature based framework and curriculum.

I just wanted to share with you the article I wrote titled 'Making Connections with Nature', which I am excited to say has been published in both 'The Space' magazine and the most recent edition of 'The Education Gazette'.

Here is a copy from 'The Space' for those that may like to read it :)


Merry Christmas and a happy new year,

Monday, 16 December 2013

End of Year Celebration Picnic

Amazingly, we have reached the final week of kindergarten for the year, before our Christmas break.

To celebrate the past year, the achievements of our children and contributions from our whānau, last Thursday we held a picnic party at Mair Park.

It was glorious summer weather and so wonderful to see everyone relaxing, families catching up with each other and children playing. Many children arrived in some spectacular fancy dress outfits. What a great effort everyone!

For a bit of fun we also organised some traditional games, an egg and spoon race, sack race and my personal favourite the hula-hoop challenge!


We also had a treasure hunt amongst the trees and bushes. It’s great when it's treasure you can eat!

As a little surprise Mr Whippy visited us and handed out delicious cones of ice cream to the children. This was a lovely cooling treat for our hot afternoon, and as Kate told me, “This is just what I needed!”

We finish for the year this Thursday the 19th December and will return next year on Wednesday 22nd January. From all of us at Mairtown we wish our children and families a Happy Christmas – enjoy your well-earned holidays. I’d also like to say a huge thank you to all our families and whānau over the year for your help at Kindergarten. All your help - no matter how big or small - is really appreciated and makes a big difference for us as a teaching team. We couldn’t do it without you all!

Finally, good luck and lots of success to our children who are leaving us for school. Although we will miss you all, we know you are all ready for this next step in your education – haere rā! 

Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete me TeTau Hou
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Nga mihi,

Monday, 9 December 2013

My Happy Place - Inspired artworks from one of the books of the year

Early last month I purchased a copy of the book ‘My Happy Place’, compiled and edited by Melissa Melbus.

My Happy Place is a book that features memories and happy thoughts from 54 prominent New Zealanders and is illustrated by children aged 5 – 13 years, from partner schools of the charity KidsCan.

The KidsCan charity was founded in 2005 and today supports the education of thousands of disadvantaged New Zealand children. Dr Airini from The University of Auckland states that “as many as 25 percent of New Zealand’s children – about 270,000 – currently live in poverty. That’s one in every four children” (2013).

The KidsCan mission is to meet the physical and nutritional needs of Kiwi kids less fortunate than others so they can be more engaged in their education and have a better chance of reaching their potential in life. KidsCan concentrate on giving the basics directly to children in need in partnership with the schools they attend, including food, shoes, raincoats and healthcare (KidsCan Website).

Melissa Melbus refers to the inspiration behind the creation of this book as a ‘reference book of happiness’ for readers. The principle goal of the book is to donate proceeds from sales back to KidsCan, thereby helping New Zealand children living in poverty reach their potential in life.

It’s a stunning book, colourful, heartwarming and full of joy and inspiration. Each page tells a different story and is complimented by a child’s illustrated interpretation. Last week I sat with a small group of children to read and discuss My Happy Place. As you can imagine the concept quickly captured their thinking. Thoughts about things that make us happy, and are close to our heart flow easily for children (for further reading refer to Christine’s earlier post, A map of my heart). With the right provocation and resources these thoughts were again transferred into artworks.

In the lives of children and ourselves art invites us to look closely, to ask questions, to take new perspectives, to explore emotions, to examine thinking, and to communicate and listen (Ann Pelo, 2007).

Inspired by Melissa’s prompt for her contributors to the book I asked our children:
 What is a happy place for you, something that makes you smile or fills up your heart with love?”

Here are a few of their reflections…

“My happy place is the pools because I can swim there with my mummy. I hold round my mummy’s neck and she swims with her arms in the coldy pool” Kate

“My happy place is going to the farm park. I love patting the animals. I love the guinea pig best; it’s fluffy and warm” Taika

“My happy place is going to the beach. We jump on the rocks and we find crabs under the rocks. We take the crab’s home; they are already dead when we pick them up. I like going to the beach with my family” Emma

“My happy place is when I play with my brothers and sister. Our favourite game is playing eye spy on the computer” Claudia

"My happy place is riding my bike. My bike looks pretty because it has a basket on it, and it has a babies seat for my bubba to ride in. I ride my bike outside and inside too" Madison

Friedrich Froebel, the father of kindergarten, believed that young children should be involved in both making their own art and enjoying the art of others. To Froebel, art activities were important because they encouraged each child's "full and all-sided development" (Froebel, 1826). More than a century later, early childhood teachers are still concerned with the "all-sided" development of each child. Our curriculum includes activities that will help children develop their cognitive, social, and motor abilities. As Froebel recognised, making art and enjoying the art of other people and cultures are very important to the development of the whole child (Englebright, & Berry. 2008. Earlychildhood News)

“My happy place is home because my mum is really lovely and my dad and my sister. I play toys, and I play lego’s at my house” Eirwin

"My happy place is when my mum reads me a book at night-time. We sit on my bunk bed and I love reading the Little Yellow Digger" Hori
“My happy place is seeing my nana. I go to her house and play toys. My granddad makes porridge, I have sauce and salad with it”  Tane

“My happy place is my family. I love my mummy and my grandma and my nana and dad AND! Oscar, Amelia and all of my cousins. I have 1, 2, 3 cousins” Livia

“My happy place is going to life-saving. We play Captains coming and I ride on my boogie board in the water” London Rose

“My happy place is going to my house. It doesn’t have a pool just grass and a house. I like playing with my toys.
When it’s dark I get my blanky and I snuggle with it and my mummy, she sings me a lullaby” Hezekiah

It is interesting to note that  the children's reflections of happiness almost always focus on feelings and experiences. These are a timely reminder to us that it is not things, but people and places that fill our hearts with gladness and joy.
 In the foreword of My Happy Place author Witi Ihimaera acknowledges that through aroha children are able to connect art with life. One of my great privileges of working with young children is being able to tap into this well of love and generosity everyday.

Catriona Williams (My Happy Place, pg. 33) captures this thought beautifully when she states, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away”.

My Happy Place can be purchased online at; shop.mhappyplace.com/‎ or check out a leading bookstore.

Nga mihi nui

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Risk-taking should be a part of childhood

As a society the term ‘risk-taking’ is often considered with negativity. However there is so much to be gained from children engaging in challenge and risk. At Mairtown we know, as do all our whānau, that our children are confident, capable and willing to push their boundaries; to engage in some risky activities which ultimately will provide opportunities for them to learn new skills, try new behaviours and reach their fullest potential. Of course the outdoor environment is the natural place for children to experience risk, and being a nature based Kindergarten (where we spend a morning in the bush with our 10 oldest children) allows for even more                                                                    exciting experiences to be discovered.

I feel however that overcoming the negatively that is associated with term ‘risk-taking’ is a challenge in itself; but in reality it’s really quite simple. I also know of some who believe that minimal risk taking is the goal for injury prevention, but surely all this does is hinder our children’s development.

Taking risks is simply one of the things children do when they are playing and because a significant amount of playing is about pushing boundaries and extending ourselves, it turns out that most play is risky one way or another (Marc Armitage)

Of course risk can mean different things to different people, and appear differently to different children.  I really love the way Clare Warden so simply explains risk as “The feeling of having a knot in your stomach… the place where you feel out of your comfort zone”. Clearly this will be different for everybody, adults and children alike, but having that knot in your stomach, that feeling of exhilaration, is such a familiar sensation, that I know everyone reading this must know exactly what that feels like, I know I do!

So why do we at Mairtown, and many other teachers and parents value risk-taking? Over recent years much research has been completed on the benefits, and perhaps more importantly the implications of children not partaking in risky play.

What are these? The many benefits of risk-taking through play shows children learn to become responsible and independent for their own actions, they develop coping mechanisms and resilience, it builds self-esteem, problem-solving capabilities and interestingly children develop a respect for danger, for hazards and experimentation – in other words they learn about calculated risk (Nichols, 2000).

The best safety lies in learning how to deal with risk rather than avoiding it.

That’s not to say that we all allow children to engage in experiences that are clearly hazardous. This is where our knowledge of each individual child is so important, knowing about their capabilities, their current resilience levels whilst also accepting that their are benefits to be gained in some small accidents. The scrape of a knee, a bump on the bottom are minor accidents where children will learn greatly through having had the experience – there obviously has to be a balance between risk and safety.

It is really interesting for us at Mairtown when we reflect as teachers, to note that the children we take into the bush each week, despite the potential for more accidents, actually have less. I suspect this is down to the fact that generally children know where their boundaries lie, they know when they’ve gone far enough, and are often more careful because they don’t actually want to get hurt.

There are worrisome potential outcomes of denying our children the opportunity to experience risk. Further research has shown that ‘If children have exciting reasonable risks to undertake [when young] they will be less likely to find and seek out unreasonable risks and hazards when they are older. These young children now, may turn into teenagers and adults who are unable to cope with many everyday situations, have no resilience and may seek out dangerous locations to carry out and experiment with risk-taking (Armitage, Gill). It’s clear that the risk-taking of a 4year old will be quite different to that of a 19 year old!

As I re-read my blog post this week, I almost feel like I’m lecturing a little (!) but this is something, which I’m sure you can tell, I feel passionately about at Mairtown.  Here is a little video of our children – see how the risk varies for each child – but I’m sure they are all experiencing the feeling of a ‘knot’ in their stomachs. And as we come to the end of the year, let’s hope our summers are filled with lots of calculated risky and challenging play experiences.

A no risk childhood is risky 
(Mac Donald, 2006)

Ma te wa, Christine