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, 27 August 2014

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Anyone who lives in Northland will of course be very aware of just how much rain we have seen over the last few weeks. This rain is something that our ‘nature programme’ children have also been extremely conscious of.

This little blog story begins three weeks ago when Kim and the children discovered a very large muddy patch at Mair Park. This find was quite unexpected and the mud patch was so large, that it was not only fascinating but also extremely tempting. Honestly, who couldn’t resist getting stuck right into this?
Creating mud angels.
 The sensorial feeling of playing in mud is irresistible to some children. Mud is soothing, cool, dense and rich and quite unlike any other element to explore in play.
Oh dear - it's easy to loose your boots in the mud.
Trying to pull out the stuck boots.

‘When you engage the whole body, along with the senses – learning comes naturally’ (Angela Hanscom)

The following week was my turn as the teacher on the nature programme. I was pretty excited, as the children had spent the whole week telling me all about this mud patch, and how much they were looking forward to revisiting it. That week we immediately headed there – and guess what – it couldn’t really be called mud anymore. In fact the mud had transformed into one of the largest puddles we had all ever seen. It was such a surprise that initially we all stood around the edge of the puddle wondering what to do, then one brave child decided she was going to venture in, and oops fell straight over onto her bottom. This caused such delight, and encouraged the other children to head into the puddle to jump, splash, sit down, chat, and just generally just have a fantastic time immersed in the water and mud.

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful

E.E. Cummings

Then last Friday was Donna’s turn as the teacher, and once again the children had told her they wanted to go and visit the mud. Many were wondering and guessing what it would look like this week. I only wish I had been there myself – look at these fantastic photos – the children in just three weeks have gone from being slightly tentative and possibly a little apprehensive at times to being almost completely immersed, head to toe, in the mud; so much so they needed to help each other to get out with a rope. What an experience this must have been. We have all engaged in this type of play ourselves as children, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the delight that comes from doing something so incredible and exhilarating for the first time. When was the last time you did something for the first time, I wonder?

Mud connects us directly with the natural world. It lets our children get up close and personal with nature, discovering different mud in different places, the creatures that live in the mud and the plants that grow in it. We all need to recognise that you can't expect the next generation to love nature without letting them experience it to its fullest.

Playing with mud and water is “not only loads of fun, but blends together science, art, math, social studies, sensory input, and language by providing opportunities to accomplish, communicate, conserve, cooperate, create, count, facilitate, differentiate (size, shape, amount, colour), discover, explore, express, converse, initiate, and be gleeful” (Zavitkovsky, 1996)

There is certainly something invigorating about plunging your hands or feet into the earth that creates a connectedness between humans and mother nature that we can feel. Here is a short collection of photos and videos from the last three weeks of the nature programme. I hope it makes you want to get your gum boots out (or your bare feet) and go and find a large muddy puddle!

The Mairtown Team would like to acknowledge that the continued success of this programme is due to the on-going, generous support of community funding organisations like COG's. For the past two years COG's have been able to support our programme with a grant to cover our Education Coordinators role. Thank you :)

Hei konā mai i roto i ngā mihi,

Friday, 22 August 2014

Mairtown Kindergarten Royals

At Mairtown Kindergarten we love to foster and celebrate the beauty and wonder of our children’s great imaginations. We support this play through lots of thoughtful planning and intentionally by setting up an environment that is beautiful, inspiring and full of open-ended resources.
At present some of our most frequently used inside resources include the colourful scarves, and the wooden castle pieces and figurines.
There is always a lot of imaginary play happening with these resources and the children that are involved are often deeply engaged with one another, creating a world of drama and delight around the roles of the princes, princesses, knights and dragons.
After recognising this popular play and listening to the wonderful dialogue between the children it was evident that imaginative play was alive and well. I decided to ask the children about why they like to dress up and pretend to be these characters.

“When I pretend to be a princess it makes me feel good, like I can do anything I want, like I can sing heaps of songs.” (London-Rose)
“Pretending to be things is good because if you want to be something you can. It’s fun!” (Khaia)
“When I’m a princess I like to play with Maria. We be mums and queens. We pretend to be something. It makes me happy.” (Payton)
“You know when I am a princess I’m not actually Korari, I’m Princess Alice! That is my pretend name I like.” (Korari)
To extend on this interest I decided to incorporate the children’s love for dressing up, with their love for playing the castle and royal figurines by personalising this play space. I took photos of the children dressed up and made small figurines to play with in the castle area.
Some children also drew pictures of kingdoms and these were used as back drops. This was all set up after the children had gone for the day and when they returned in the morning new levels of magical play and interaction began.
“Wow, this looks so beautiful here!” (Kate)
“Oh, this is a little tiny me. Can I play with me? I am being a beautiful princess” (Emma)
“I am the only boy one, the only prince. I might be the king too!” (Wyatt)
“We are playing princesses and Madison and I are being witches.” (London-Rose)
“They turn into witches, they do the bad things but then the other princesses make them stop doing the bad.” (Khaia)
“I like being this little person, I am playing with all my little friends. We have a castle to all play in as little ones together.” (Maria)
Over the past week more children have become interested in their tiny friends and have engaged in lots of imaginary play and story-telling.
“Look Zeke, I see all these people, they are our friends and they are little people in this castle. Let’s play with them!” (Matteo)
So these lovely little Kindergarten Prince and Princesses have been wonderful for creating many opportunities for extending on our children’s interest in imaginary play. This type of play allows children to explore the magic of being creative with their ideas and knowledge in a safe but meaningful way. The world of royalty is an imaginary place for our children, however the roles that they chose to play with in them are boarder line realistic for them. For example playing with other children’s figurines that they usually would do in real life. Or playing roles that are familiar to them like being a Mum Princess with a baby as they have a little baby living in their household at home.

Davis (2011) acknowledges that, “Imaginative play is essentially when children are role playing and are acting out various experiences they may have had or something that is of some interest to them.  They are experimenting with decision making on how to behave and are also practising their social skills.  Children learn from experience: from what happens around them, from what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch.   To absorb those experiences and make sense of the world, they need to be engaged in imaginary play.”

The joy, magic and creativity that happens during this type of play is so wonderful to be a part of. Children are incredibly good at being free and thinking outside the box through their play. As a teacher of young children I feel blessed to be privy to the value imaginary play and the important role it plays in terms of lifelong learning. It is great for helping develop strategies that support problem solving in real life situations.

Harris (2002) gives a great example of how imaginary play gives children skills that will support them in the future, “... suppose we think of pretend play and fantasy as something that’s quite characteristic of young children—it makes them playful and endearing but doesn’t really contribute to their later cognitive development and by adulthood it has in some sense disappeared. I tried to argue that this is wrong. Human beings have a gift for fantasy, which shows itself at a very early age and then continues to make all sorts of contributions to our intellectual and emotional life throughout the lifespan. To give you some examples, imagination helps us to make causal judgments about how things might have turned out differently. If something goes wrong in life, then we ask ourselves where we went wrong. The imagination allows us to engage in thinking about alternatives in this prosaic form. In making moral judgments we also think about alternatives. We look at something that has happened and we ask how it could have been done better or differently. And again we are exercising our imagination.”

Imaginary play is important work for our children and as teachers it is so important that we foster this. We do this here by providing beautiful, interesting spaces full of resources that capture the imagination. The Princes and Princesses of the Mairtown Kingdom are on a journey, learning about their worlds, expressing their knowledge, ideas and thoughts whilst having fun along the way.


Written by Zair Taylor

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nurturing whanaungatanga - Mairtown's annual hangi

On Friday 8th of August we celebrated our annual Hangi at kindergarten. The Hangi is usually part of our Matariki events; however due to the weather we had to postpone the date and what a great decision it was, as the weather on Friday was just awesome. Ranginui must have been taking care of us as though it showered twice, neither of these downfalls effected our festivities.

Our Hangi is a highly anticipated event, from the beginning to the end of the day the focus is on working together, sharing, making connections and caring for each other as we collaborate in the creation of a delicious feast and experience.
Taika helps to put meat in the Hangi basket
 At the heart of our Hangi is the Te Ao Māori principal of whanaungatanga. Whanaungatanga recognises that people are taonga (treasures) and are part of a larger collective; therefore it is our relationships with each other and how we care and nurture these connections that is most important.
Roman carries his lantern
Paul Hirini describes whanaungatanga "as a value, which reinforces the commitment whānau members have to each other. Such commitment is expressed through the process of caring, sharing, respecting, helping, assisting and nurturing" (MOE)

Tiaki holds his sparkler
Ritchie (2012) also states that "Whanaungatanga recognises the centrality of whānau and relationships to early childhood care and education, and is consistent with the Te Whariki principle of Family and Community/Whānau."

On behalf of the team I want to say a huge thank you to our parents, whānau and tamariki for helping to make this such a special day. We also want to acknowledge Glen Davidson (our local library bus driver and musician  extraordinaire) for supporting us again this year with our fireside sing-along and lantern parade.

 Once again, Christine has created a wonderful video that truly captures the essence, care and energy of this wonderful day of social interaction and celebration, enjoy!

 E hoa ma, ina te ora o te tangata

My friends, this is the essence of life

Noho ora mai

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Continuity of Learning Through the Medium of Art

Last term I began some work with a group of children on the topic of lions. We looked at photographs of lions (using one of my favourite books 'A Shadow falls'  - photography by Nick Brandt). We also examined lion models, spent time sharing our current knowledge on lions and went on to complete some observational drawings. 

Lion Before Storm, Sitting Profile Masai Mara 2006

Observational or representational drawing is a method of encouraging children to ‘think deeply’ about any given subject. It encourages children to look closely at, and to communicate what they see; with it, children really ‘learn to see’ (Kolbe, 2005). 

As the children began their first drawings on lions I initially encouraged them to draw what they knew about lions. All these elements that we noticed, we then talked about. As the children worked, I often repeated the same words, ‘look and draw, look and draw’ - thereby encouraging them to spend time on their work - by occasionally looking, stopping and thinking.

The initial art pieces were wonderful and the knowledge the children shared as a group amazed me. Several days later however came the holidays. Over this two week break I was lucky enough to attend a conference where I was reminded of the value in children being able to re-visit their work, of repetition and of continuity of learning. Ready and eager to go at the beginning of a new term, and with my own new learning and knowledge at the forefront of my mind,  I again invited these same children back to re-visit and continue their earlier work with lions.

 In early childhood education we are aware that, ‘Effective learning usually occurs over
time as children practice and master new skills, concepts and techniques. It is rare that significant learning just ‘happens’; 
new learning typically builds on previous knowledge and experience. For this reason, effective learning environments plan for and build in continuity, predictability and repetition’ (NQS-PLP, 2012).

As the children looked again at the lion pictures, models, photographs and our own past drawings of lions, they were all eager to share their understandings, and wanted to complete some further observational drawings. Once again we talked about what we noticed – ‘How come some lions have lots of fur? What’s this called? Why don’t lion cubs have manes?’ I also encouraged the children to draw some of their past and new knowledge through my own questioning with them, ‘Remember how you thought the lions fur looked soft, how you would draw that?  

‘Such extended learning experiences not only engage children in meaningful and absorbing play, but also promote higher level thinking as children recall and make connections to what has been done previously, plan ahead, and review and evaluate their thinking along the way… If we continually change the materials, experiences and resources that children work 
with, then we risk short-changing children’s experiences’ (NQS-PLP, 2012).

Some of the children’s conversations (24.6.14)
Kate: Lions have four legs, two at the front and two at the back. I can see the boy one has more hair. The lion has scratched it's face when it’s fighting.
Teacher: Why do the boy or male lions have more hair?
Payton: Because the girls don’t grow it.
Reese: The boys have a lot of hair that you can’t see the ears, but I think they do have ears.
Mia: That’s called a mane. The girls ones don’t have manes so they can look more beautiful, and so the boys can look like boys.
London-Rose: They have brown skin under the fur and brown legs.
Emma: They have a big round head.
London-Rose: And their whiskers are straight.
Sharlotte: See, some of the mane goes down onto its tummy. The boy lions have long hairs and the girls have short.
Kayden: But the boys and girls have hair on the ends of their tails.

And after re-visiting – a later conversation as we began to examine the face of lions (23-28.7.14)
Payton: The female lions have no hair, but they do have whiskers on the top of their eyebrows. The eyes of a lion are oval shaped, this is a girl lion.
Hezekiah: You mean it’s a female lion, I’ve just learnt that word.
Kate: The eyes are half oval half heart. The nose is out more than ours. There’s fur at the end of the tail. Hmm…this needs me to think, it’s hard to think. The legs are one in front of the other, the back legs look bigger than the front legs. The tummy is curvy on a real lion.
Hezekiah: Those are whiskers and they come out those dots on the face.
Payton: Lions have different noses to us.
Kayden: Shall we draw it, you need to look to draw?’
Peter: Lions are brave and they roar.
Wyatt: They have really loud roars.
London-Rose: And they roar to save their babies.
Wyatt: And leopards…you know lions eat meat.
London-Rose: Yeah, and stuff from people’s bodies like their brains!
Kayden: Lions fight, they fight other lions.

Art is an ideal medium to help children process new information.  With art they can manipulate concepts, put ideas into reality, create images that represent thoughts, and make tangible new concepts for all to see (Wardle, 2000).  Art is the medium through which young children work out experiences, add personal feelings, and record solutions and judgements (Engel, 1995).  Combine this with all the children sharing ideas and gaining each others' perspectives, along with them re-visiting and revising their work, and we see how children move to new levels of awareness. My role here as the teacher was to act as a guide, one where I was careful not to impose my adult ideas and beliefs upon the children.

‘Connections and continuity between learning experiences ... make learning more meaningful’ (DEEWR, 2009).

Now lets look at the drawings completed over this period of time, I think you'll clearly notice how the later art work - completed after a months break - shows far more intricate and finer detail.  Along with all our conversations together, art becomes a way in which we can clearly see learning in motion. We can see how, for children, knowledge develops with the continuity of learning through both repetition and re-visiting.

On drawing 2, we can see that this child becomes very aware of the lions heavy furry mane (how it is large in comparison to the lions face), how the mane grows down the lions back, the outer lid and inner pupil of the lion’s eye, the lion’s ears are apparent, his lion has sharp teeth, whiskers near the lions mouth (along with the small ducts the whiskers grow out of), this lion has a much longer tail and claws on each of its four paws.

Again if we consider these two drawings (the first drawn in June and the second July) the added detail on this child's second drawing is evident. It is especially noticeable around the lion's face with the addition of the fine whiskers, delicate hairs above the eyes and the small furry patch under the lion's mouth.


And finally, examine these two drawings. The differences in the drawings indicate the new levels of awareness this child has reached. We can see on this child's second piece of work that the legs are drawn with more detail and shape and have the addition of paws (compared to the earlier stick legs) and there is also significantly more features added to the lions face.

I would love to show you more of the children's work, but I realise this may then turn into the longest post I have ever written!  I hope however, you have enjoyed the few examples I have been able to share.

Hei konā mai i roto i ngā mihi,