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, 25 June 2014

Providing mathematically rich experiences through play

In early childhood play is a child’s world and allows the child to be a child whilst they develop and acquire knowledge and skills in a completely holistic way. As early childhood teachers we know and support the theory that children learn through play (self-directed learning). When children are active participants in experiences that are important to them play cultivates meaning and purpose; therefore as stated in Te Whāriki ‘The learner and the learning environment – are closely connected, and the curriculum applies to both” (1996, pg. 19).

So, how does the context of play best support children’s early mathematical experiences at kindergarten?

Mathematics/Pāngarau “is the exploration and use of patterns and relationships in quantities, space and time. Statistics is the exploration and use of patterns and relationships in data. These two disciplines are related but different ways of thinking and solving problems. Both equip students with effective means for investigating, interpreting, explaining, and making sense of the world in which they live” (Kei Tua o Te Pae, 2009, pg. 2).

When children play they are engaged in opportunities and experiences with both the physical and social worlds, through these interactions children continually develop and construct new knowledge and understanding. With a lens on mathematics we believe in providing meaningful context to everyday activities through appropriate resources, pedagogical knowledge and recognising the skills, ideas and interests that children ‘arrive’ with (family/whānau mathematics).

Mathematical provocations can ‘capitalise on young children’s high level of motivation to learn in a self-directed manner’ (Clements, 2001). 

When setting up spaces to invite children’s engagement and interest in mathematics we have found that simple yet fun activities, along with an interested and informed teacher can offer powerful learning experiences.

Number stones accompanied by gridded paper invites children to contribute and record (if inclined) their knowledge of number awareness.

Numerical concepts are developed and affirmed when children have opportunities to match objects with complementary numbers.

Providing ample resources provides children with opportunities to divide and sort objects into groups.

Tables set out with baskets of beautiful resources invite children to look for and construct patterns that have a ‘rule’ or relationship.


Grouping and sorting activities offer opportunities for children to practice and confirm numeracy key concepts such as pre-counting, one-to-one counting and counting sets.

When supporting children in their work and explorations with mathematics, we endeavour to be guided by an ‘investigative approach’ meaning that, we aim to foster and promote children’s understanding of mathematics through purposeful, meaningful and inquiry based experiences that are personally interesting to the child.

However, as with any meaningful curriculum context, scaffolding children’s potential learning requires teachers to have a clear content knowledge themselves. When we are informed and knowledgeable we are able to identify children’s current knowledge and then draw on our own skills to further extend their learning.

Mathematics can be ad hoc in early childhood education; it is often referred to as curriculum ‘that is everywhere’. However, I believe with intentional, forward planning early childhood play experiences  can offer rich opportunities for children’s pre numeracy and literacy skills. The outcome for our tamariki is life-long learning and achievement.

Nga mihi

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Fire Thursday

I’m definitely not a winter person; give me the summer any day!  There is however one aspect of winter at Mairtown Kindergarten that I love, and anticipate almost as much as the children -  ‘Fire Thursday’!

As soon as the weather cools we start to plan our fire days, fondly known by the children as ‘Fire Thursday’, due of course, to the fact that we hold our fires on Thursday mornings.

The creation of fire is an essential factor of a Nature programme. It is one of the four elements and provides opportunities for children to experience success and self-accomplishment when starting a fire from scratch that will ultimately cook food. 

This is our third year of having weekly fires during the winter months at Mairtown, and we have clearly seen the benefits it offers to our children.

There are obviously significant risks associated with fires, and we take very seriously our roles as teachers to plan and manage for these carefully. We engage in a great deal of discussion about these risks for a few weeks before we begin our fires; the children sharing their ideas of what they anticipate as dangers, and the children who were at kindergarten last year remembering our all important ‘safety bubble’.

Drawing the safety bubble
The safety bubble is an area that we draw around the fire in chalk, marking out a clearly defined zone. The children know that no one apart from the teachers are allowed inside the safety bubble.

Keeping warm

Fire can provide a wide range of learning opportunities for young children including:
Mathematical and science concepts - Preparing a fire with paper and laying
   wood for a base.
Science concepts – how heat changes objects.
Cooking – with use of hand held paddles and pokers.
Ethic of care in looking after your friends.
Health and safety and how to manage risks.
Working together as a collaborative community.

Pikelets - delicious!!

So far this year we have cooked some delicious homemade bread, toasted some marshmallows, made pikelets and this week cooked sausages.

Time for tasting!
Lighting the fire

It is always interesting to talk to the children after these events to hear their reflections.

‘Reflection is remembering with analysis. When we engage children in reflection, we encourage them to go beyond merely reporting what they’ve done. We also help them become aware of what they learned in the process, what was interesting, how they feel about it, and what they can do to build on or extend the experience. Reflection consolidates knowledge so it can be generalized to other situations, thereby leading to further prediction and evaluation. ‘ (Epstein, 2003)

Madison's fire drawing

Thinking about our fire Thursdays:
Kayden ‘The wood makes the fire
Madison ‘The flames make a tricky pattern
Kayden ‘We have fires and we can eat things
Emma ‘And it’s also so we get warm. If its cold and not sunny we make a fire’
Kayden ‘Fires are bright so they make light’Emma ‘Hey, but only the teachers put it out
Kayden ‘You can’t go in the bubble, only the teachers. The bubble is a round circle
Madison ‘And we put chairs around the fire, the flames look like they dance’
Kayden ‘I think the flames look like teeth’
Kate ‘Hmm, the chairs are so we get don’t get bored of standing up cooking’
Emma ‘And we mustn’t touch the fire or we’ll get burned’
Tyler M ‘We know a lot about fires!’

Ngā mihi, Christine

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Parallel bars offer challenges

The outdoor environment is a great place for children to challenge themselves and learn to take responsible risks.  The teaching team recognised the benefits of having longer parallel bars and commissioned a local engineering shop to manufacture these.  When the longer parallel bars arrived at kindergarten and were introduced to the children they appeared keen to have a turn to show what they can do or challenge themselves to try something new.

 Movement is at the very core of how children develop intellectually, emotionally, socially, and of course, physically.  A moving child is a learning child”.  (Gill Connell, Moving Smart, 2011).   
The addition of longer parallel bars has created plenty of opportunities for our tamariki to physically and mentally challenge themselves.  It is a fantastic resource as it can be physically demanding, provides opportunities to take responsible risks, as well as use their imaginations.

Adventurers and enquiring minds are nurtured from the early years, they are encouraged to keep trying, never rescued but expected to go further, to seek new ways of thinking and doing.  Adventurers are encouraged to be dreamers, to think of what is possible, to challenge what is known and unknown”.  (National Quality Standards, 2013).

Over time I have been privileged to observe our tamariki build their confidence to explore and test their own capacities to challenge themselves to let go while hanging upside down, stand on top of the bars or find different ways to get across the parallel bars. 

According to Koringa Hihiko Active Movement “Children love to hang, swing and climb and it’s great for them.  These active movements experiences help to develop strong muscles in the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers (upper body strength).”  (Sport and Recreation New Zealand, 2012).

I enjoy observing the children build and develop their muscle control and strength to be physically able to move and hang on the parallel bars in different ways than previously able.  The look of accomplishment and celebrating success on a child face is priceless.

“Face a challenge and find joy in the capacity to meet it”.  Ayn Rand.

Here are some comments from the children.

I’m a koala bear sleeping in the day time”.  Payton

Doing flips, flips are easy peasy”.  Tiaki

“I got up here by myself”.  Kayla

“I’m going to swing on these bars, tricks are good, it’s my favourite thing to do”.  Peter

Slippee, slide across on my bum”.  Wyatt


“I can flip upside down and let both hands touch the ground”.  Liam

“You know I can stand up here ‘cause I did gymnastics”.  Livia

“Look, I’m not scared standing up here”.  Khaia


 “…the more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves.  If you never let them take any risks, then I believe they become very prone to injury.  I like the type of child who takes risks.  Better by far than the one who never does so.  Roald Dahl
Ngā mihi, Susie

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A hidden world – life under trees

A few weeks ago I posted a blog (here) discussing some inquiry work the children had been conducting on trees. When posting a blog it is sometimes easy for you – the reader – to think that that’s the end of the topic, the children have done their learning and we as the teachers are moving onto new areas of inquiry. Of course this does sometimes happen, but often the inquiry continues, becoming more in-depth and more complex. As work progresses more problems are naturally presented, more theories shared and more understanding is created.

This is what has been happening with our work on trees, and is what I am going to share with you through this post.

In my last post I shared some of the wonderful drawings children created whilst working on the topic of trees. Since then I have introduced clay to the resources on offer to further extend the children’s current knowledge and understandings.

Having worked extensively on their drawings of trees (which the children are still choosing to re-visit independently), the children have found they are now able to make extremely complex tree sculptures.

All the tree sculptures began the same way, with an armature to help the clay from collapsing, but the children then choose very different materials with which to represent their trees. These varied from wire, sequins, beads, real leaves, fallen branches and string.

Working with clay can be viewed as a language for exploring and communicating ideas. Like drawing, clay work enables children to make their ideas visible – but in three dimensions. Different materials present different possibilities and so enable children to extend ideas.

As the children worked with their clay, we discussed what we had already discovered about trees and continued to share our ideas. One of the biggest challenges with the clay trees was getting the branches to stay on and the tree to stand upright. Interestingly this led to some in-depth discussion about the different shapes of trees, how the wind and storms can blow trees down and how the roots help support the tree in the ground.

Investigations can involve more than gathering knowledge about topics. They offer us ways to nurture children’s imagination and spirit and their potential as morally aware, critically thinking citizens (Kolbe, 2005).

Now, after this brief sharing of ideas on the role of roots, I encouraged the children back to thinking more deeply about root systems. I wanted to deepen their investigations, so whilst working alongside the children I was keen to challenge their ideas, provoke their thinking whilst also co-exploring along with them.

What hidden worlds are under trees? was one of my questions. As you can see from the children’s conversations below, worms were a popular choice of discussion and once again I decided to offer the children drawing materials.

Drawing is central to investigations as it involves materials that make it easy for children to generate ideas quickly (Kolbe)

A sole tree with worms coming out of the grass

Water sucked up by roots

What hidden worlds are under trees?
Taika ‘Snails’
Mia ‘And slugs’
Khaia ‘And even worms, I see them’
Tyler C ‘And sometimes snakes’
Mason 'Cicada bugs too and we have a bug at home that crawls on the grass, it's purple but I don't know what it's called'.
Tyler M ‘Dirt, lots and lots of dirt and beetle bugs’
Mia ‘And there’s water in the dirt’

Why is there water in the dirt?
Mia ‘It’s from the rain’
Worms amongst the roots
Taika ‘When you give water to trees, they drink it, they get food’

How else do trees get food?
Tyler M ‘Some people put food on the trees and its like compost.
Kayden ‘Worms are in compost’
Tyler M ‘Worms go into the compost. If people have yucky food the worms eat it and then it turns into compost and feeds the plants’
Kayden ‘Worms wiggle with their bodies under the trees and make holes’
Khaia ‘And you know, worms eat the leaves to make food’
Tyler M ‘Compost? But food needs to rot down to make compost’

So how do worms help make compost and food for the trees?
Khaia ‘Erm…. so I think garden worms eat leaves, hey I know, it's when the
Tree surrounded by worms
leaves fall on the ground.’
Taika ‘The worms go into the tree roots. So the worms eat the trees then make more food. They eat the leaves and eat all through the leaves. The food is in the ground’
Liliana ‘Yes, that’s right. The food is in the ground and the roots. It comes from the soil because of the compost when you throw it out, it makes food for the trees that go into the roots. It’s all the garbage from the bin – worms give us good things. The leaves transform into their tummies and crack open and then the leaves turn into food and its drinked up from the roots’
Kate ‘I’ll show you how it works by drawing it. The leaf goes into the worms mouth, then the leaf's coming out of the tummy and it then pours into compost in the ground’.

Water sucked up by a tree through its roots
Next to the root system of a tree there is a whole hidden world - rabbits, ants and worms

Drawing demonstrating the 'hidden world' under the trees: roots, worms, ant, snails, slugs and cicada bugs.

I just love these conversations. I have been so privileged to be able to listen to the children’s understandings evolve and expand as they think deeply about a topic. I can’t wait to see where their work on trees will take them (and me) to next!

'Water moves from the rain to the ground, into the roots and then...up up to the leaves'

Nga mihi, Christine