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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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Christine's National Excellence in Teaching Award

This morning we had the opportunity to partake in a very special celebration with our children and families – a tea party to applaud Christine for being awarded with a National Excellence in Teaching Award - NEiTA.

Last week Christine (accompanied by her lovely husband Mat) flew to Wellington to join twenty-four other teachers from across the education sector to receive regional awards for excellence in teaching and leadership in the Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings.

 Christine’s nomination for this award came from community recognition of her exemplary teaching skills. Christine is well known as a thoughtful, purposeful and intentional teacher who promotes professionalism in Early Childhood Education. Christine’s work with children is underpinned by affection; this disposition of care and attention was confirmed again today when Liliana (5 years) stated, “She’s a good teacher to all of us and we love her so much!” 

Christine chats with reporters from The Advocate
As you can imagine, preparing for a ‘surprise’ at kindergarten is never an easy task! However with the combined effort, aroha and energy of our kindergarten team and families, a truly wonderful tea party was prepared.

Kai tables were transformed with layers of white tablecloths, lace and vases bursting with colourful flowers. Fine china and teapots were collected, shared and laid out on the table alongside platters, plates and pedestals laden with the most delicious assortment of treats. Centre to all this mouth-watering fare was a truly sumptuous cake.


Christine was seated at the head of the tables in a beautifully adorned ‘princess chair’, she was surrounded by parents (past and present) her team, local media and our tamariki – Christine’s teaching community to which she has given her heart and her thinking.

“there is nothing more beautiful in life
than celebrating the talents, dreams,
joys, and accomplishments of another being
to see - and call attention to - the best in someone else...”

The NEiTA Awards were established by ASG Education Programs New Zealand 18 years ago to promote excellence in teaching. In the 2014 programme booklet NEiTA’s Chief Executive John Velegrinis states: “Today’s recipients are teachers and education leaders of the highest calibre. It is so heartening to meet teaching professionals who are so committed to bringing out the best in our children academically and socially. Their record of achievement in going above and beyond to help students’ reach their full potential is outstanding.” (NEiTA programme, 2014)

Here at Mairtown we continued to feel truly blessed to work alongside such an aspiring and dedicated professional. Congratulations Christine, you make us so proud!

Some reflections from the children on why Christine received a 'best teacher award':

"She helps other people - she helps on the Nature Programme - I went on the Nature Programme with her, we walked to the Magic Tree" - Kate

"I like playing with her in the sandpit" - Tyler C

"Christine does great painting. Her's nice, she's the nicest in the whole world" - Livia

"She listens to us...and she understands" - London-Rose

"I like when she's playing with children" - Maria

Me te mihi nui, na Kim 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Play is the key for valuable learning

Recently I have being doing some reading about play and what valuable learning children develop from it.  When I think of play it encompasses a huge amount of development for children including, learning social and motor skills and cognitive thinking.

“In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour.  In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.”  (Lev Vygotsky)

As a teacher every day I observe children learning through their play in a variety of ways, whether it be solitary play, onlooker play, parallel play, associative play, social play, motor-physical play, constructive play, expressive play, fantasy play or cooperative play. 

“When you asked me what I did in school today and I say ‘I just played.’  Please don’t misunderstand me.  For you see, I am learning as I play.  I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.   Today I am a child and my work is play.”  (Anita Wadley, 1974)

There are so many benefits of play and I couldn’t agree more with Anderson-McNamee (2010) where she explains, “Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development.  Play allows children to be creative while developing their own imaginations.  Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature and most importantly, to have fun.  Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family and the world.”

I would like to share this link to a short video titled “One morning at kindergarten” as it is a wonderful explanation of the nuances of learning within an early childhood setting.

Video - click here to view

Ngā mihi

Monday, 12 May 2014

Small group inquiry - Discussing the world of trees

Kolbe states that, ‘Trees are a rich topic that can inspire and enchant’. I can’t help agree, trees aren’t just beautiful they are also extremely fundamental to our environment and existence. With this in mind and with autumn well underway - the leaves noticeably changing colour - I thought how a discussion on trees would be a wonderful way to begin this new term.

When I’m working with children in small groups, listening to them inquire, telling their stories, working out their ideas I can’t help but feel excited. Inquiry based learning is an aspect of teaching that I love and value.

This documented work begins with just one simple question, “Why do we need trees?”. As always I was ready with some photographs to provoke the children’s thinking about trees, and of course we spent some time sitting on the grass at Kindergarten examining the trees around us.

As the children started to reflect and share their ideas I was ready with materials for them. Loris Malaguzzi the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to education felt it was important for the art studio to be subversive; a combination of both an art studio and a science laboratory. This is evident each time I work with children and provide tools for their exploration - whether it be clay, paints, pen and paper – these media are helpful for children when working out their ideas, hypothesizing, testing theories and answering questions.

In this recent work the children worked with white paper, black vivid and at times dye. Here is an extract from their thinking:

Why do we need trees?
Chamodhi ‘Trees are good for playing, if we hurt trees they stop growing’
Peter ‘You can jump off trees’
Wyatt ‘And build a house in a tree’
Chamodhi ‘We can build things in trees like monkey bars and trees can be taller than a house or just little’
Payton ‘And if someone cuts the wood off you can use it to make stairs’
Tyler O ‘You need trees at Christmas in your houses’
Mason ‘And you could use their leaves as a fan’

Drawings based on observation include a blend of the observed, remembered and the imagined.

‘Young children are extremely expressive, with an enormous capacity for sharing feelings and emotion, and that imagination plays a key role in the child’s search for knowledge and understanding’.
(Learning, Teaching Scotland, 2006)

Why do trees have leaves?
Marcus ‘They help people stay dry for a bit from the rain'
Wyatt ‘Some trees have no leaves on when they are alive and trees bend in wind and they give us shade’.
Liam ‘Yes trees are good to park under to keep the car not too hot, and if you don’t park under trees the car gets too hot’
London-Rose ‘Leaves are at the top and sometimes at the bottom of trees’
Payton ‘Sometimes leaves are pointy or not pointy’
London-Rose ‘And trees have branches and a trunk’
Liliana ‘Trees are very very interesting. Some trees are very big with bushes on the top. Trees are our friends and they have leaves on them, which fall at winter.
Wyatt ‘No it’s autumn, the leaves fall at autumn!’
Liliana ‘At autumn time usually the leaves just turn different colours, leaves can fall in winter too!’
Wyatt ‘Trees are good for climbing and you can put swings in trees’
Tyler M ‘Trees give us apples, plums, apricots, pears, oranges’
Marcus “And Feijoas’
Mia “Trees have flowers on them”

Why do some trees have flowers?
Emma ‘Because it makes them into a beautiful tree’
Kate B ‘The flowers make food for us’
Wyatt ‘And the bees make food for us as they take the pollen from the flowers on the tree’
Tyler M ‘Trees need rain lots of rain”
Why do trees need rain?
Livia ‘It makes them grow’
Kate ‘Or they’ll die’
Marcus ‘They need water so they can grow’
Mason “Yes and they need rain for that and sunshine or they’ll die forever’
Tyler M ‘Trees give animals the shade’

What sort of animals?
Tyler M ‘Birds’
Mia ‘Giraffes eat the leaves from trees’
Oscar ‘And monkeys live in trees’
Tyler M ‘And acorns come from trees which squirrels collect’
Wyatt ‘Trees they make good homes for spiders and ants’
Claudia ‘Birds live in trees, in nests and bees’
Taika ‘You know trees make you breathe!’

How do trees make you breathe?
Claudia ‘The wind blows the leaves around and give you fresh air’
Kate B ‘They just give you fresh air’
Liliana ‘All the bad air is coming up into this hole in the leaf and then it goes down into the soil and the good air is invisible and it comes out into the human mouths’

As we worked together in small groups I was careful to constantly revisit the children’s earlier ideas, allowing time for further reflection and discussion. After several days we began to consider the hidden world of trees, the aspect of trees that we don’t always get to see – life under the soil.

Is there anything underneath a tree?
Liliana ‘Soil, dirt and compost’
Livia ‘And worms’
Tyler M ‘Roots are under, the water drips into the dirt and the water goes into the roots’
Mason ‘Some roots poke out the ground and dirt is around the roots’

What are the trees roots for?
Kate B ‘It makes them grow. The trees grow roots in the ground’

So, do all trees have roots?
Kate B ‘Oh yes, so they can stand in the ground and not move’

'As children listen to each other’s ideas and see each other’s work, they have opportunities to learn that there are different points of view. Through exploring a topic in different ways and from different perspectives, they expand their understandings' (Kolbe)

What do roots look like?
Kate B ‘They are covered in dirt’
Marcus ‘They can look like anything, some are little and some are big’
Kayden ‘They look like snakes’
Liliana ‘They look black and brown in the soil. If the roots weren’t there the tree wouldn’t grow big big big’

How do the roots help make the trees grow?
Kate B ‘They suck the water up and it helps them grow’
Kayden ‘The leaves spit the water out and the roots drink them up again’

Apologies for this very long blog post, but after reading the wonderful conversations from the children, I hope you feel it was worth it.

Nga mihi,

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Bringing the outside in

The next best thing to being outdoors is to have further outdoor experiences inside. Nature is a provocateur; it evokes memories and nurtures our sense of well being. Within our indoor environment, space continues to be used imagitively and with careful consideration. With these thoughts in mind I recently covered one of our large low tables with locally grown ‘ready lawn’. This lush, soft, green backdrop transformed a wooden table into a new area for wonder and engagement.

 Monday saw the beginning of a new term at Kindergarten; with the children’s return I was eager to observe their responses to this fresh provocation. Whilst our attending children are well used to encounters with nature indoors; covering a whole table in turf was a new experience for us all.

Interestingly (though not surprising), for many children their initial attention was captured by the resources that were offered on top of the turf. As I observed it affirmed my thinking; that for young children aesthetics are often connected to ‘an appreciation of pleasant and special sensory experiences’ (ECE Educate).


As the ebb and flow of the day continued many different children were drawn to the experience of the ‘grassy table’. At one point Tiaki who was eager to share with me his latest discovery beckoned me over:

“This grass is real! First we thought it was fake, but then we saw the dirt, and now we know it’s real!”

Tiaki’s surprise in discovering the unexpected was reflected in other children’s thinking:

“We have grass outside. At my house my Dad says no grass inside. My Mum says no grass too” – Peter

“Hey, I know that grass, that’s from my Dad!” – Tyler

For other children the rolled out turf provided a provocation to engage in lateral thinking and learning through a real and immediate experience. Kate very quickly deciphered that the grass was real; however she questioned how the grass came to be on the table. Kate’s inquiry led her to look very closely at the cut turf, and to look underneath. In her exploration’s Kate discovered that grass has tiny roots; and that the earth beneath is cold and wet.

Bringing the outside in helps support the belief that children can best create meaning and make sense of their world through playing in complex, rich environments.  The all-encompassing effect of regularly connecting with nature is be to nurtured. It’s just as Livia stated, “It feels softly soft to your hands”.

“Invite nature in.”

Nga mihi