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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, 25 September 2014

Introducing our 'Playpod'

Almost a year ago Christine, Susie and I attended a thought-provoking presentation facilitated by International Play Advisor (Outdoor Play and Learning: OPAL) and Play England trustee, Michael Follet. Michael has a vision to improve all aspects of children’s play opportunities and is an advocate for creating the ‘best conditions’ for children to be engaged in open ended, creative play.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Michael speak, seize the moment, he is knowledgeable, witty and most importantly passionate about his work and vision. His presentation was a steely reminder of our role as teachers (and parents) to protect and promote the value of play as a vehicle for learning. Whilst many topics were discussed and covered in his workshop one that totally piqued my interest was his introduction to ‘Playpods‘ in Primary Schools.

Playpods are basically shipping containers FULL of recycled objects and materials that children can use and manipulate for the purpose of their play. At kindergarten (as in many places) we often refer to these open ended objects as ‘Loose parts’.

“Loose parts can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together"  (Surrey County Council, 2012)

“Loose parts are flexible elements within a play environment. They are the fuel which feeds the fire of children’s imaginations and playful intentions(OPAL, 2014)
Loose parts have always been viewed and loved as a necessary resource in our programme however, as I sat in Michael’s presentation I started to visualise and ponder what might evolve in our children's play if we created a designated  play space (or our interpretation of a Playpod) for some of our loose parts at kindergarten. 
It was time for some team planning!

Our Playpod is an un-used avocado bin and is housed on our grass area. The loose parts provided have been chosen by the team after a brain storming session on objects that we know and felt would further support children’s creative thinking. Our objective with the Playpod was to offer a mix of new and already favoured materials and in keeping with the theory of loose parts, we would offer lots of the same items.

“The greater the diversity of loose parts offered to children, the greater the range of play interactions. These interactions enable open ended exploration through play leading to learning by doing” (The children’s scrapstore, 2014).

On the 9th of September our Playpod was ‘officially opened’, this was an exciting morning for children and teachers alike; we were really excited to observe how the children would choose to explore and interact with this new space and the tamariki were in full resourceful thinking mode!

“When children have opportuniites to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understanding and ways of doing things” (Surrey County Council, 2012)

We are now five weeks down the track of having a Playpod in our playscape. As envisaged, this wonderful edition to the children’s choices for self-directed play has been a hub of activity.

As PlayEngland (2014) states “the capacity and ability of children’s play is inexhaustible” this giant box of treasures promotes creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, sustained engagement and supports our children’s schema’s. We just love it!

See you in term four!

Nga mihi nui

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Princess Party to Farewell Donna

After 17 years of working for the Northland Kindergarten Association – 15 of those at Mairtown Kindergarten – on Friday we farewelled our beautiful teacher, Donna.

Of course, we couldn’t let Donna leave without her knowing that really, we think she is a true princess! So after a little planning (and much sneakiness!) we sent Donna away for a while whilst we busily decorated the deck area for our shared lunch, and inside, created the perfect space for pampering our princess.

On her return the pampering began. First the children decided which princess dress she should wear, and then when she was adorned in her crown, the children got busy. Donna was moisturised, had her feet submerged in a bubbly warm foot spa, had her hair brushed and decorated, her toes manicured and painted and generally made a big fuss of.

The pampering begins...
Which princess dress?

Will you have this dance Donna?

In true princess style we had to have a ‘ball’ with Prince Tyler asking Donna for the first dance.

At midday lots of our families arrived and after a few teary speeches we presented Donna with a huge basket of gifts – generously donated by our whānau and children – a stunning card made by the children, and as a surprise for Donna we all watched a slideshow of photos spanning her teaching career.

When it was time for our shared kai, Donna sat at the head of the table and in front of an amazing castle cake (made by Kim) that also had a mini decorated Donna sitting on top.

Donna has been a huge part of Mairtown Kindergarten and has taught many many children over the years, in fact it was lovely to welcome some past families and children back, and amazing to hear stories about Donna from people she taught years ago who are now studying at University.

We are really going to miss Donna at Mairtown, and she will leave a huge gap in our lives. We will miss her joyfulness, her sense of humour and her beautiful smile. I’d like to share some touching comments about Donna from a few of our families.

A past student of Donna's (from a few years ago!)

‘Kaiako Donna, it’s so fabulous, wonderful and awesome to have your wisdom and experience shared with our daughter. Arohanui.’

‘Donna, We have been fortunate by having you in both our children’s lives at such an important stage of their development, when their values and character are founded and shaped. We wish you a very happy and fulfilling retirement, and hope that you will be able to enjoy it very much, since you very well deserve it.’

Loving the princess slippers Donna!
‘Where to start, what an amazing lady, you have been a massive part of my boys life and they all love you very much. They will all be better humans from spending time with you, thank you for being such a fantastic teacher, friend and protector of our kids.’

‘Dear Donna. Thank you so much being such a wonderful teacher for our three kids. You bring such a vibrancy to this kindergarten and will be very much missed.’

And of course no one is going to miss Donna as much as the children. When thinking about what is so special about Donna, they told us:

Pictures of Donna in her castle
‘She does the nicest things for me, like she push me on the swing’

‘She makes me cocoa really nicely’

‘I like her because she watches me’

‘Donna watched me on the monkey bars’

‘Donna’s scones are really delicious’

‘Donna does good manners!’

‘She pushes me on the swing’

‘I love Donna because she is the best teacher’

‘I love Donna so much’

Here is the slideshow for you all to watch, of Donna over the years :)

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
 Mark Twain 

Hei konā mai, Christine

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Coloured Sticks

When I see beautiful, interesting things in this world it makes my heart flutter. I feel happy, intrigued and excited. This feeling is something that drives myself and the other teachers at Mairtown Kindergarten to provide attractive, interesting environments for our children.
We find inspiration and ideas in our daily lives; for example getting out in the community, visiting art exhibitions, wandering through nature, going to events and also by searching the world wide web. The website Pinterest is one of the places that I turn to find ideas for provocations that I can bring to work and share with the children.  

Image of an inspiration from Pinterest
Recently I found this image of sticks wrapped in fabric. Simple, yet so very effective. After asking our families for donations of fabric scraps and receiving some branches from Donna, I was able to try out this idea.

The children selected different pieces of fabric, I tied them together and then we wrapped them tightly on to the branches. Many of the children questioned me, “What are you doing?.. What is that?.. What are you going to do with them?..” All very fair and relevant questions. I explained how I had seen a beautiful picture of something similar and that I thought that it would be fun to give it a go.

Role modelling, giving things a go, is a wonderful thing for children to witness adults doing. Sometimes it is a bit daunting trying things out as there is a small risk of things not working out the way you planned it. However, very often our expectations are often met and even succeeded which is incredibly satisfying and empowering.

While wrapping these sticks I asked the children what they thought they would do with them.
“I will make a beautiful house for everyone.” (Charlie)
“This would be my power wand for magic powers to change things.” (Nash)
“This is my magic stick wand and it has so much magic in it.” (Hezikiah)
“I would make a beautiful colourful hut.” (Sharlotte)
“You know it could just make a cool tent for my friends.” (Liam)

When our collaborative work was complete I decided to make a tee-pee structure.
“Wow! Look at this colourful house for us!” (Maria)

Some of the children sat inside it, some ran in, out and through it. Some children touched the branches and looked intently at the workmanship. 

A group of children decided to draw some pictures of the tee-pee.
“I like them because I like the red. I chose red and purple and black when I was making it with you. I want to draw it. I’m thinking I will use brown for the sticks. I like the purple and blue so I will make that on here.” (Korari)
“I like reading books in it. I like looking at the sticks because they are happy sticks. They are nice sticks.” (Sharlotte)
“I like the colourful tee-pee because it is a tent that I can build stuff in it like blocks. I love it because its got colours on it and I love colours and I want to have colours for ever and ever and ever.” (Tyler C.)
“You know my Mum thinks these sticks are just so beautiful.” (Nyla)

So many children had a hand in this creation and the lively, colourful sticks will be a source of delight for everyone at kindergarten. It was really a wonderful team effort of collaboration.
“Children’s development occurs through active participation in activities. Collaboration with adults and with other children plays a central role in this development. The programme should recognise, acknowledge, and build on each child’s special strengths and allow each to make a contribution or to “make his or her mark”, acknowledging that each child has the right to active and equitable participation in the community.” (Te Whariki)
It sits beautifully in the outdoor environment, adding pops of colour to our very natural play scape. Aesthetically it is wonderful and so pleasing to see the children enjoying it for a range of purposes. At Mairtown Kindergarten creating aesthetically pleasing play spaces is a key component within our teams teaching philosophy.
“Good aesthetics result not only in an overall sense of attractiveness and beauty within an early childhood centre, but also gives pleasure to those who work and play in the centre and to those who visit.” (Aesthetics-ECE Educate- NZ MoE)
Because I am constantly on the hunt for great inspirations and ideas to bring to work I am constantly being blown away with how many beautiful things are to be seen in this world (its almost delightfully overwhelming). In regards to this, one value that I wish to share with the children that I work with is for them to feel the same sense of delight and inspiration when they come across interesting things. And then to have the confidence to create and reinvent these inspirations for themselves.
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
Camille Pissarro
I am excited to see how else the children decide to use the colourful sticks in their play. The children have helped create an open ended, loose parts resource for all to use. Let’s hope they bring much joy and colour to their play.
Hei konā mai,Zair