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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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Building Connections with the School Community

At the end of last year ten of our tamariki walked to Whangarei Primary School for a visit. The aim being to look around and to build connections further with the school community.  Recently Room 20 from Whangarei Primary School have returned from their Tangihua camp and are armed with new bush knowledge. Friday 14th March provided the opportunity for them to share this with us as they joined us at Mair Park for our Nature Programme. We met up with all the children and their parent helpers from Room 20 with their teacher Mr H (Pieter Hensen). 

Developing and building connections between our kindergarten community and the school community is vitally important for our tamariki as they transition on for their next learning journey.  I believe strong reciprocal relationships are key for transition to be successful.

“A strong relationship means building sturdy supportive foundations and committed partnerships to care for the well-being of students, staff, and the greater community.  A whole child approach to education – which ensures students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged – remains a sustainable approach through the development of these strong, healthy relationships; whether it be student-teacher, school-community, or peer-to-peer relationships.”  (Kristen Pekarek, 2014).

Spending the morning together created an opportunity to work together and to share knowledge with each other.  Our children displayed great Rangatiratanga, showing the Whangarei Primary School children exactly what we do on our Nature Programme and clearly explained all our rules, for example we don’t pick any live leaves or branches from trees.
As Broadley and Williams state “Rangatiratanga in translation is the strength of one’s own ability to lead or become a leader.  Simply translated, ‘Ranga’ (to weave), ‘tira’ (the group) and ‘tanga’ (to draw) from collective knowledge is the basis that not only develops one’s own ability but develops the ability, knowledge and wisdom of all.  A true rangatira can be identified by their ability to have good intentions supported with effective actions.”

Hapaitia te ara tika pumau ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu 

(Foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations)

I was also impressed to see how all the children demonstrated wonderful manaakitanga towards one another. They supported each other, developed new friendships and rekindled old friendships while exploring and making discoveries together, going on bug hunts, making ephemeral art and making a bivouac (hut).

Professor Manuka Henare (2005) describes manaakitanga in this way, “manaaki tanga relates to the finer qualities of people rather than just to their material possessions.  It is the principle of quality of caring, kindness, hospitality, and showing respect for others.  To exhibit manaakitanga is to raise ones mana (manaaki) through generosity”.

Here are some reflections from our children about having Room 20 visit us at Mair Park;

"We climbed Rocky Mountain and sat on the rocks.”  Mason

“We made flowers from leaves and sticks and we looked for seeds.”  Eva

“I know Nicholas from drama.  Me and Nicholas, I showed him heaps of Rocky Mountain and we didn’t go past the sign and we went down the rock slide together.”  Marcus

“We looked for lizards.”  Ben

“I looked really hard for bees, bugs and spiders.”  Erin

They were teaching us their song.”  Eva

Thank you to Mr Hensen and all the children from Room 20 of Whangarei Primary School for a great morning at Mair Park.  It was a fantastic opportunity our kindergarten children to make connections with the school community.  Also a big thank you to all the parent helpers; these outings wouldn’t be possible without your support.

Ngā mihi


Monday, 17 March 2014

A child's right to creative expression

Whilst doing some reading this week I came across an article by Mary Ann Kohl, an author of books on children’s art. The opening paragraph, which seems so obvious, but is often overlooked in terms of education really stuck a chord with me. Here it is:

There's no doubt about it: Creativity is as natural and necessary for children as fresh air and sunshine! By exposing children to creative experiences, we give them the gift of a rich and memorable childhood while laying the foundation for a lifetime of creative expression – all topped off with a heaping helping of important learning skills.

Since then I’ve done a little more reading and reflecting on the creative opportunities we offer our children at Mairtown. Opportunities for creativity can be found anywhere; it can be found in the apparent obvious such as music, drama, dance and art or also in the less obvious such as science and play.

Of course when you are reading about something at home, you can’t help but transfer this to your work with children. Although I believe we offer many opportunities for children to explore and develop their creative skills, I have been working in this realm even more over the last few weeks. I have chosen to provide the children with a selection of ‘loose parts’ to do their exploring, shells, feathers, beads, buttons, stones and skeleton leaves to name a few. These open-ended materials are particularly effective because they can be used in many ways; they have no predetermined use.

 Kia Mau ki nga mahi toi
Hold steadfast to creativity

Literally anything can become the base pallet for children’s designs. We have used tree cookies, small fabric circles and my new favourite these larger black felt discs. The larger circles require a child to use their whole bodies to create, they have to move around the circle, crawl inside it, stand above it to see what they are designing and of course also provide great opportunities for collaborative work amongst small groups of children.

As the children have worked I have been alongside them - listening to their spoken ideas, reading their non-verbal cues - but never ever rushing them. I can’t help but notice that as the children sit down to consider their creative work, it is as if time slows down a little. Their work takes consideration, a carefully observation and exploring of the materials they are using, arranging, and re-arranging of the many parts – work is at a very slowed down pace.

Who can't resist listening to the sea in a shell!
Surrounded by your own creativity, beautiful!

The goal of engaging in the creative arts is to communicate, think and feel…when children play with open ended materials they explore the look and feel of the materials. They develop a sense of the aesthetics by investigating what is beautiful and pleasing about the material…The more children use open-ended materials, the more they make them aesthetically pleasing by fiddling, sorting, and ordering, and the more they see the potential in the materials and themselves” (Drew & Rankin, 2004).

I just love how Kate went beyond the restraints of her black felt circle in her design, extending
her work by tucking feathers under the mat and using the surrounding carpet.

Through respecting creativity in children, children are able to explore their own ideas, helping them learn to think and solve problems for themselves. Children who feel free to make mistakes and to explore and experiment will also feel free to invent, create, and find new ways to do things. Fostering creativity in our children gives them a zest for imagining and learning which will last a lifetime (Mary Ann Kohl).

What next? Well as adults perhaps we should all spend a little more time exploring our own creative skills so we can value what our children create. I know sitting alongside some of the children these last few weeks, I also couldn't resist fiddling with the shells, feeling the bumps and noticing the patterns, and before I knew it I too was laying them down and creating my own design J

Nga mihi,

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Art of Storytelling

Children have an innate love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder of the world. In our fast-paced media driven society, sharing and experiencing storytelling can be a nurturing way to remind children that their spoken words are powerful and that listening is important. Stories teach us about life, about others, and ourselves. Most importantly in my opinion, storytelling encourages the use of imagination and creativity.

With this learning in mind, I recently set up a laminator, paper, pens, scissors and wooden stands at one of our drawing tables. Naturally some of the children were very intrigued, and in answer to their questions I spoke about the idea of drawing pictures to create ‘characters’. “Characters” I explained “are people or things which do things in stories”

This simple explanation soon led to a flurry of drawing, cutting and laminating and the table began to burst with a colourful array of images which included a cat named pepper, a unicorn, fairies, children, little sisters, dogs, trees (which were magic!) a mountain, a giant, two monsters, my daughter Phoebe and me.

Stories encourage active participation and can increase children’s willingness to communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Later in the morning, I used some of the newly developed characters to tell a story to the children. This story started with ‘Once upon a time’ and as the plot un-folded told the story of a girl (Phoebe) who met a Unicorn in the forest and was granted one wish (by touching the Unicorn’s magic horn)…

And so the scene was set and over the next two weeks with the purposeful support and interest of the teaching team; storytelling acted as fuel for the fire in our children’s literacy development.

As children listen to stories, they become familiar with the art and practice of storytelling itself. They internalise the rhythms and tones of a storyteller's words and, through those elements, come to know what makes stories interesting, exciting, funny and sad. They learn through observation how to pair gestures and words to bring characters and their actions to life. They hear unfamiliar words whose meanings they can piece together through the context of the story, increasing their vocabularies in a meaningful, lasting way.

“Once upon a time there was a little dog and he found a unicorn and then the dog was on top of the unicorn, and then you came Kim, you got magic from the unicorns horn – you have to wish – and then you can fly…” Wyatt

“So once upon a time there was a unicorn that was flying up in the air and then he heard something, boo hoo hoo hoo, and along came Reese…” Reese

“Today is the fourth and on this day every animal gets to race…” Mason

Both telling a story and listening to a well-told tale encourages children to use their imaginations to consider new and inventive ideas. As the days passed and different children arrived at the storytelling area to contribute their ideas to the character scene, new plots and increased knowledge began to emerge. Many of the stories began to depict good, bad and in-between characters; storytelling helps children to process the way that real life works, including accepted styles of behavior.

Stories help children grow in academic learning. Storytelling introduces new vocabulary and encourages children to explore their unique expressiveness as they communicate their thoughts and feelings in an articulate manner.

The art of storytelling has been around since humans began; however the venues for storytelling have changed significantly since then. Television, movies, computers and smartphones present shinier, flashier, more technologically impressive stories. Storytelling, nevertheless, still has huge importance for children, in particular it provides children with real, live human interaction and most importantly it develops both knowledge and a love for stories themselves.

Thank you Christine for another great clip which captures the essence and inspiration of our future storytellers.

Nga mihi