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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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fostering Scientific Thinking

A couple of weeks ago, one of our children, Thomas, brought in a live centipede (in a jar) that he had found in his garden over the weekend.  Since then bugs have become a huge source of interest for many of our children, and interestingly sparked some further bug hunting.  We now have quite a collection consisting of a cricket, lots of cicada shells, three cockroaches, 2 dead cicadas, a dried centipede, a scarab beetle, a dragon fly and a weta.

Examining and discussing the have bugs proved to totally capture the children’s interest; as more children become involved and share their thoughts, ideas and theories about these creatures, this in turn sparks more interest amongst our other children.

Collaborative learning in small groups aids the exchange of ideas, increases interest among the participants and also promotes critical thinking (Gokhale, 1995).

As I talked to the children and encouraged their dialogue, they asked many interesting and thoughtful questions. Is it dead? Will it come back to life again? Does it have eyes? How long does it live? What does it eat? Is it going to bite me?

The more they talked, questioned, hypothesised, compared and reasoned it became clear this was going to be a wonderful opportunity to work with the children in extending their scientific thinking.

Many people misinterpret what science is in an early childhood context.  As Wilson states “Knowing the right answer…is not one of the primary objectives of science in the early childhood curriculum. Knowing the right answer, requires no decisions, carries no risks, and makes no demands. It is automatic. It is thoughtless. A far more important objective is to help children realize that answers about the world can be discovered through their own investigations”.

So how do we do this? Clearly we all now know how naturally curious children are, their questions and theories flow freely. Childhood is a special time when we aren’t as afraid as adults to make mistakes; children's questions and ideas should be nurtured, encouraged and valued. As their teacher I can certainly assist in fostering our children’s scientific thinking by asking questions of my own. Known as productive questions, these help bridge the gap between what children already know and what they experience, it takes children forward in their thinking.

Lead by the question, what does it eat? Here is one of our cockroaches
 eating some biscuit...

Some examples of the productive questions I have been asking these past few weeks are; What is it doing? How does it feel? How are they different/alike? What if…..? How could we…? What do you think? Can you explain that?

In completing our research and to help with our discoveries we have used the internet, books, our microscope (a favourite with the children and a wonderful tool for further extending children’s thinking and engagement with our bugs) and of course magnifying lenses and sheets.

Many children have also chosen to answer some of their questions through completing observational drawing. Observational drawing is a tool we use frequently at Mairtown and assists children in looking at the finer elements of specific objects in more detail often leading to joyous discoveries.

Look at this wonderful dialogue from Marcus as he drew a centipede. You can almost see the different stages of his thinking as he questions, reasons and works through his ideas.

“I always knew centipedes had a long body, but now I know they have lines on the body. Oh and at the head they don’t have lines, the legs are long and look like a circle.  Where are the eyes? I can’t see the eyes. I think they have eyes as eyes make things see.” We move onto talking about what they eat. “Can they eat elephants? I don’t know. Elephants are super big so they couldn’t probably eat elephants. These pincey ones (antennas) are for killing food I think. Do they have mouths, oh yeah; they must do because they eat it. (Looking carefully) oh yes I can see some teeth so they do have mouths. These are for banging people away (talking about the antennae) so when they bang into things, so they don’t have eyes, so they just know where they are going, so when they bang into things they just eat them. I haven’t actually seen centipedes before. I don’t know where they live, maybe bushes; there are no bushes at my place so there are no centipedes at my place.”
Marcus's centipede
Emma's scarab beetle
Mia's centipede

“Children are naturally curious about the world and want to find out as much as they can. They want to know what makes the wind blow, how trees grow, why fish have fins, and where turtles go in the winter. But they don’t want adults to give them the answers. They want to be the discoverers, the experimenters, and the theory builders. They don’t want science to be something that is imparted to them; they want it to be something that they do. They want to be scientists; not just consumers of science. They want to ask their own questions, collect their own data, and arrive at new and wonderful ideas. These “wants” should shape the foundation of an early childhood science curriculum.” Wilson


I am looking forward to seeing where our investigations will take us this coming week…..

Nga mihi,


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Fostering Connections with Community

On Friday, February 14th Christine, Risini (Chamodhi's lovely mum) and I guided a group of our tamariki through the Whangarei Sculpture Symposium, held in our local Art Park at the Town Basin. 

The Sculpture Symposium is a unique event held in Northland, which is attended by local and national artists. This year the attending artists were invited to create wood or stone forms that relate to important local influences: either physical, natural or historical. 

Opportunities to observe and engage with artists and their work enable children to be immersed in a quality cultural experience. 

 Jane Appleby explains a Quality Cultural Experience as something which arouses curiosity, stimulates interest, taps into the senses and challenges your thinking (The Ark). 

When observing new art forms and the skills needed to create them, children are deepening their understanding of art processes and the possibilities of materials.


Prior to attending the symposium, we gathered the group of attending children to discuss the idea of ‘sculptures’; our intention was to develop an awareness of their current knowledge, understandings and curiosities.

First we inquired about what sculptures are: 

"They are artwork" 
"Sculpture is like a statue" 
"Sculpture is something that is carved out of rock"
"Ice, you can make a sculpture from Ice, my dad did" 

We also discussed how artists might shape sculpture, and what we could do whilst at the Art Park:

"I think they cut it with a knife"
"Perhaps an axe?"
"You use a piece of wood and you bang it so all the pieces come out and you can shape it"
"When we get there we can talk about how the people make those things"

Active involvement in learning builds children’s understandings of concepts and the creative thinking and inquiry processes that are necessary for lifelong learning. They can challenge and extend their own thinking, and that of others, and create new knowledge in collaborative interactions and negotiations. Children’s active involvement changes what they know, can do, value and transforms their learning (The Early Years Framework).

Armed with clipboards, cameras, paint and loads of enthusiasm and anticipation, we arrived early at the Art Park to engage in some investigation. As Friday was the day before the auction, most of the artists were creating the final flourishes to their work; the Art Park was humming with activity!

Following the lead of the children, we ambled slowly around the roped areas of the participating artists, stopping to observe new art form and skills, discover materials, chat with the artists, and engage in some observational drawing.

The work of artists offers food for thought and for the imagination. Like other expressive languages, the visual language is a gift that belongs to every man and woman right from birth; it evolves and is nurtured by favourable cultural contexts (Children, Art, Artists, 2008).

The children observed that sculpture could be created out of many different resources. Rock can be white and chalky (Oamaru stone), smooth on your cheeks (basalt), pitted with holes (Hikurangi stone) or shiny (marble). Wood can be carved with chainsaws, axes and chisels and blackened with fire. They noticed that men and woman create sculpture and that collaboration helps to get the job done.

In our work with children we seek to foster links with community, which provide opportunities to be inspired and have creative experiences. Observing artists be masterful in their work affords children with a legacy of know-how, it celebrates success and strengthens their awareness of their local environment.

"I love just looking at all the sculptures" Kate 

"Can we come here everyday and see this, I just love it!" Mason

Te toi whakairo, ka ihiihi, ka wehiwehi, ka aweawe te ao katoa.
Artistic excellence makes the world sit up in wonder.

Nga mihi

Some of these beautiful photographs were taken by ex kindergarten mum and practicing artist Chris Schreuder. If you would like to see more of Chris' photographs check out The Whangarei Sculpture Symposium page on Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Through the lens of a new teacher

As a beginning teacher last year I decided it was time to go relieving and experience what other early childhood environments offer, with the aim to enhance and develop my own professional teaching practice.  I clearly remember the first time I relieved at Mairtown Kindergarten, and the feeling I had from the moment I walked through the front gate; I was impressed by the environment and totally inspired by the teachers.  Considering I was born at Whangarei hospital and have spent almost my whole life living here I had never ever visited Mairtown Kindergarten before, so I was totally astonished by the feeling I had of being at home and truly welcome.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart”. Helen Keller

From my observations it was very obvious that the tamariki (children) and whānau (families) also felt similarly as there is a real genuine sense of whakatue (respect), aroha (love), manaakitanga (caring/nurturing/loving) whanaungatanga (relationships/connectedness) and whakahoahoa (friendliness) within the Kindergarten.
The environment fascinated me greatly, outside there were no primary coloured boxes rather a nature inspired environment with humongous totara stumps with planks, monkey bars made out of wood and roped into the trees and a riverbed with a stream.  Inside I was awestruck by a calming and uncluttered environment that was set up to be aesthetically pleasing with flowers in glass vases, real china, glass and cutlery that really gives the feeling of home away from home and creates an inviting environment to play. 

“Beauty and surprise should be the basis of every child’s environment- every direction a child looks at should be filled with materials and structures that inspire curiosity and delight”. (Rusty Keeler, 2008)

I couldn’t help notice how the children appeared so happy, competent and confident while busily involved and engaged in their play.  This is especially evident when the children are exploring their environment and making new discoveries, they seem so enthusiastic and willing to try new things.

“Once children learn how to learn, nothing is going to narrow their mind.  The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another.” Marva Collins

Driving home after my first day relieving at Mairtown Kindergarten I realised what a great sense of professionalism the teaching team had.  I observed how they are passionate, enthusiastic teachers who constantly refer to literature instead of leaving it to collect dust.

“Passionate teachers are distinguished by their commitment to achievement of their students.  Commitment is an essential element of successful teaching.  Teachers, who are engaged in their profession and committed to students and their learning, play a crucial role in development of students”. (Mart, 2013). 

In term 4, 2013 I applied for and was very lucky to have won the long term relieving position at Mairtown, this means I will be now taking turns to write to the blog.  This is my first blog to give a little back ground information and to introduce myself, so until next time take care.
Christine and I celebrating our birthday's
Nga mihi, Susie

Monday, 3 February 2014

Celebrating Chinese New Year - The Year of the Horse

Last Friday saw the start of Chinese New Year, representing a time of new beginnings and a fresh start. This is a much anticipated event at Mairtown Kindergarten, and this year, 2014, signifies the year of the horse.

Chinese New Year celebrations take place all over the world and last for around 15 days (this year ending on the 15th February) and we at Mairtown are no exception; we have been holding a few celebrations of our own!

On Friday we began to decorate Kindergarten; we hung traditional red lanterns and even had a go at making some of our own decorations from Ang Pow (red packets). Ang Pow play an important part of Chinese tradition and are extremely auspicious among the Chinese community.

The red colour of the envelope symbolises good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

Making this diamond shaped decoration required lots of patience. We followed some instructions that we found online, but despite its simple structure, the folding and lining up of the envelopes was complex and tricky. What a great way for us to practice following a process from start to finish, combined with a little trial and error too!

Chinese New Year is a time of celebration, reunion, forgiveness, sharing and thanksgiving.

As we gave the children their Ang Pow we were careful to uphold the tradition of passing the envelope with two hands and also of receiving it with two hands, palms facing upwards. Traditionally Ang Pow are given to children with money inside, our children were delighted to find a chocolate coin in theirs.

Ang Pow is a gift of money, which symbolises blessings, good luck, good health and success.

Next came our Chinese banquet. We are so fortunate at Mairtown to have connections to one of our past families who also happen to own a local takeaway business. They prepared a delicious feast for all our children and whānau to share consisting of noodles, fried rice, prawn crackers, beef and black bean, chicken and cashew – yum!

‘The connections we make, the actions we take, and the questions we ask each other are vital to how we develop a competent approach to culture in its many variations.’ (Shackwell, Early Childhood Australia)

This week we have continued our research and discoveries into the Chinese New Year, and observed how it instinctively integrates itself into our programme.  We have looked at the Chinese symbols used in art and writing and even practiced our own.

Plum blossom is another symbol linked to the Chinese New Year and was a wonderful resource to consider in our art studio as we continued our discussions today.

The plum blossom symbol is tied directly to the Chinese New Year, representing courage and hope. It is also much admired for blooming on bare branches during the cold winter months.

A simple combination of black Indian ink and water colour paints made some beautiful yet delicate blossom pictures.

With a few more days to go, no doubt Chinese New Year will continue to integrate itself further into our work at Kindergarten. But for now - Gung Hay Fat Choy - 恭禧發財 - Happy Chinese New Year.