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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Monday, 30 November 2015

The Creation of Fairy Corner

Inspired by one of our children’s interest and knowledge of fairies, several weeks ago, we decided to try to create a fairy kingdom for ourselves at Mairtown.

At the very beginning of our work together we began to talk about what we already knew about fairies. Some of our children are already great experts with Sienna telling me ‘If I wasn’t here you would know nothing so I’ll help you’. This statement was a great way to open the dialogue even further and really look and think in-depth about the wondrous world of fairies.

Here are some of our children’s initial thoughts:
Fairies only come out at night.
All fairies are nice.
Fairies and gnomes like one another as they are similar. Gnomes wear different colour coats and fairies wear dresses and other stuff.
Some gnomes have pets like bunny rabbits and reindeers
Fairies, they only like to be seen by one another. Gnomes like to be seen by people.
There are boy fairies, they have butterfly wings.
Fairies can turn people into the size of fairies with their magic wand.

 After a couple of weeks something really exciting happened. Kelly (Sadie’s mum) said she knew of an artist based in Kaitaia by the name of Sheree Wagener who builds fairy lands, and a recent one which has been on display at the Quarry Gardens was available to us if we’d like it (Thanks Sheree J - click here and here for a link to Sheree’s Facebook and website for more details). Imagine the delight and surprise as this stunning piece turned up at kindergarten. Each time you look into this fairy world you notice a little bit more, a little something new. The timing of this art was wonderful as it truly captivated the children’s imaginations and sense of wonder – just read a few of the conversations I managed to be a part of. 

The beauty of nature instinctively immerses children in wonder, a fundamental instigator for establishing and promoting a love of life long learning amongst children (Deviney et al, 2010; Wilson 1997).

Lali: I wonder what’s behind the door? May be there’s a fairy in there.
Penni-May: Yes, I think there is a fairy in there but she’s asleep so she can’t hear us. So…she must live in that house, here in fairy-tale land.
Lali: Is there fairies in there? I have fairies ay my daddy’s house, they might like to visit these ones.
Pippa L: I can’t see them. (Calls out) Fairies, where are you? Hmm, they won’t come out.
Lali: This is their home; I think they do live there as there are pictures on the wall.
Pippa L: (Calls out) –Come here, we can’t see you. Shall we wait for them?
Lali: Yes, we have to cover our eyes for 6 minutes or they won’t come out.
Sienna: (who had been watching with interest) I don’t know, but perhaps fairies are invisible.
Lali: I have a good idea; we could go hunting for fairies.
Sienna: I go hunting for fairies but I never do see one. You know that fairies are quite shy.
Max: This place is only for real fairies.
Toby: They must be in the house cause the lights are on in there.
Cleo: (head to the glass) I can hear something inside…I can hear sound.
Lily: Shush, shush (to everyone)
Sienna: Hmm, if you hear a noise inside, then there must be a fairy in there.

Images from Sheree Wagener

As the weeks have gone on our fairy corner has been transformed. The children have built fairy worlds at kindergarten, using their imagination and all the natural resources on offer to them. Many children have shared treasures from home – Sadie brought in a fairy house her and her dad built together - whilst many have brought in books to share or other special items to add to the already beautiful fairy corner. Fairies have been drawn, made from wire, discussed in depth, transferred into imaginative play, and many creative stories have been told.

As I worked alongside the children in their fairy kingdom, I encouraged the wonder and imagination of the children, I also modelled for them that life is not always about having the right answers. In fact, having the right questions can actually prove to be a more important and rewarding skill in life. I encouraged the children to explore, look, listen, touch, pick apart, compare, collect, sketch, and anything else that came naturally to them; this in turn allowed for their own open-ended investigations that were of course lead by their own curiosity and desire.


Of course after several more weeks the children began to wonder if any fairies were indeed visiting this special place they had created. Sienna, our fairy expert, told us, ‘They haven’t come to us yet as when they do they move your things around. They leave notes, but not all the time and they leave fairy dust and sometimes presents’

After this comment suddenly the children set about creating gifts for the fairies in the hope that they may visit us. Again totally independently the children demonstrated their care and respect for this special secret world by making a tiny necklace from beads, a crown, collecting shells, decorating a pine cone with gold paint and glitter, picking flowers, making a fairy peg doll, writing a note and leaving this all out on a collected leaf in the middle of fairy corner one Friday before they all went home for the weekend. They also made sure to give me instructions before they left telling me, ‘Fairies will only come if it’s quiet so no music or anything, and lights off too, everything off’.

The gifts are prepared and waiting for visitors.
I must have done a good job of following these instructions as one morning as we headed to fairy corner we were in for a lovely surprise; some flowers, a precious rock, a tiny note and something sparkly. Sienna was the first to come across the scene telling me ‘I told you they would come. Heaps of fairies must have come as there’s lots of fairy dust. Look, I think those are footprints’.

Slowly others joined us and we debated about the gifts, the note and where the fairies are now.

Pippa L: I know where the fairies are, they went into the house maybe, into the secret door.
Sienna: Well, if fairy dust is here it means they live here.
Sadie: Look at the crystal they left, they went to their workshop and made it for us.
Sienna: Yes, as they do make things.
Sadie: This is to say thank you to us.
Pippa L: Maybe it came from crystal land, ssh everyone we should go now and leave the fairies alone.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand' (Albert Einstein)
This is just a small snippet of the learning and wondering that has happened in this special little corner of Mairtown over recent weeks, there is so much more I could tell you, but not enough space or time to write it all down. What I have really enjoyed is watching the children take such care over their play with the delicate resources, how they have worked almost everyday to add something new and special for the visiting fairies and perhaps what I have enjoyed observing the most is just how special childhood is, when we allow and encourage children to wonder, to be imaginative, to believe in fantasy and to be children.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article where I statedRemember back to your own childhood, the thrill of spotting a sparkling rainbow inside, reflected from the window, or your mind imagining all sorts of creatures hidden in the trees as you listened to the wind making music with the leaves. For most of us, these times are long forgotten and as adults we rush from one job to the next. Perhaps we too should slow down, take the time to observe nature and become filled with wonder, excitement and imagination once more…Childhood should be a time of magic and wonder; let us honour this’ (NZ Education Gazette, 2013).

More than anything I believe we should want children to be captivated in what they learn, as it is that captivation that will lead to the desire of deeper understanding and the seeking of knowledge. The world around us holds an infinite number of lessons for us and is filled with what can seem like magic.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” (Rachel Carson)

Until next time,

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Fun in the sun at our Pooh sticks fundraiser

After many months of meticulous planning and organisation on Saturday 14th November we held our annual ‘Pooh sticks’ race fundraiser at Mair Park.

The ten children who attend our nature programme all know very well how to explain the game of ‘Pooh sticks’.  As Sam explained “first we find our sticks then we walk to the bridge, then we drop them off the bridge.  They float down the river”. 

As part of the build-up for the ‘Pooh sticks’ race, at our group time we showed a snippet of a Winnie the Pooh video explaining how the game of Pooh sticks was developed.  By the end of the week kindergarten was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. 

Fortunately on Saturday we had beautiful weather with great support from our children, their whānau and friends.  Thanks to Phil, one of our kindergarten dad’s excellent tidal expertise knowledge and pre-planning our sticks were racing along the Hatea river with an outgoing tide.

After a countdown from ten the numbered sticks were dropped off the bridge into the water (thanks Mat and Mike for your fantastic help with this job).  There were lots and lots of people watching the race from the river bank, cheering on the three hundred sticks, however there could only be one winner!  It was a close finish; thankfully we had Nigel and Phil in the kayaks ready and waiting at the finish line.

Once the race was completed the prize giving was held where there were fantastic sponsored prizes for the first five placings and even a prize for last place. Also there was more winning to be had with twenty three spot prizes to give away, as well as raffles and a silent auction to win.

With delicious food stalls and wonderful music provided by Junior Strings from the Whangarei Youth Music, Scott Martin playing the saxophone and local band Two Kay, there appeared to be lots of happy punters dancing to the music or sitting down relaxing.

Community events like our Pooh sticks fundraiser provide an excellent opportunity for whānau/families to engage with each other, meet new friends and socialise outside of kindergarten.

When I asked the children what they enjoyed most about the Pooh sticks race, there was an array of responses including:
Pippa C. “I like the race and watching the sticks fall in”.

Toby:  “My dad do it, he dropped them (the sticks)”.

Franchi:  “I won a prize”.

Isla W.  “I liked dancing”.

Capri:  “I went to the Pooh race.  I had a delicious cake”.

Madison:  “My favourite part was when the people threw the sticks in the water.  Who were the people?  I had a cupcake”.

Sam:  I had a pooh bear cup cake and a bumble bee cup cake and vanilla ice cream, I was that hungry”.

Lali:  “I went with my daddy, I liked the cake”.

On behalf of the teaching team I would like to thank everyone who supported this event especially all the hard work of organising and planning efforts made by our Parent Support Group, this includes, Karla, Katie, Yvette, Kelly, Jess, Candace, Lena, Robyn and Katy and also Simon, Nigel, Phil, Mike and Jarrod.  Also we need to give an enormous thank you to Sarah our fantastic administrator who has worked above and beyond.  We really appreciate all the effort and time that helped make this event so successful.

A huge thank you to all the whānau who helped make this event such a success through offering support and help with many jobs including gaining sponsorship, collecting prizes, preparing the bread and onions, baking delicious cakes, selling tickets, cooking and selling the sausages and gaining sponsorship.

Thank you to our amazing sponsors including; Evo Holdings, Reyburn and Bryant, Base Group Consulting, John Duff Roofing, Cato Bolam Consultants, Mojo Trust, Snugglies, Regent New World,  Pak N Save Whangarei, French Hen, Kensington Pharmacy, Pet Essentials, Golden Bay Cement, Farmlands, Parua Bay Tavern, Kelly Tarltons, Belltech, Specsavers Whangarei, Fledging Photography, Just Dance, Tikipunga Butchery, Young’s Four Square, Autocare Whangarei, Kiwi North, Zest Mortgage Brokers, Storytime, My Bounce, Melody Art and Design, Erika Blank – Bayleys Whangarei, Relax, Delights, Three Furlongs Bar & Grill, Whangarei Aquatic Centre, Placemakers, Swimspiration, Delights, Northland Pilates, Mini Glowlf World, Ollie & Dre, Stoodles Design, Office Max, Scentsy, Fudge Farm, Revive Beauty, Cabbage Tree Café, Riverside Café, Mercy Clothing, Northland Pottery, and Activ8 Mummy.
The monies raised from this event will be used to paint our kindergarten interior over the summer holidays.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.  Anthony J. D’Angelo
Mā te wā

Monday, 9 November 2015

A stunning tradition

We have found ourselves once again at Mairtown, creating beautiful art for our end of year calendar fundraiser. As a community based kindergarten, fundraising has become an important way for us to maintain our high quality learning programme, yet this particular fundraising has also become so much more than that. The manner in which all the children create, in an unhurried manner, their own unique piece of art has also become a rather stunning tradition – one that many of the children look forward to, remembering previous years’ work, or having seen older siblings’ pieces.

What I really love about working with the children on their art pieces is watching how they interact with the materials, how they notice and enquire about the work of their peers, and how children when supported with time and space begin to ‘think like an artist’.

Often when I work with children on any art related experience I encourage them to ‘think like an artist’. Although as adults we may ponder too much over how to do this, for children I find it comes quite naturally. So how do artists think? I’m actually not much of an artist myself despite it being very much embedded in my teaching practice, so to answer this question I have to look at what artists tell me,

Artists often look at things more closely than most people do. They tend to notice things that others might miss, often with the eyes of a child...Artists also tend to look at things in different ways, often without using labels…when artists sit down to draw or paint a scene they look at the objects as shapes and lines, not as trees or noses. They notice how the shapes and lines are related to each other; they look at spaces between shapes; they look at shadows... (Mulcahey, 2009)

It is with that statement in mind that we often find ourselves at Mairtown returning to the work of Hundertwasser. His work is delightfully colourful, rather abstract and children are naturally drawn to his pieces, all interpreting his work in very individual ways.

For some, art and creativity comes more instinctively than it does for others, however I still encourage all the children to ‘think like an artist’. As I work with the children either in small groups or individually, I’ll encourage them to take a risk, to experiment and try out their ideas, as that is how we gain the confidence that anything is possible; I’ll encourage them to look at things in different ways, as that is how we learn that everyone sees the world differently; and as I perhaps do more frequently than anything, I’ll encourage the children to dream and imagine, to tell stories, to think about what it could be rather than what it is, as this strengthens our imaginative and critical thinking skills.

Artists often take risks with their work since more will be gained by taking a risk than not. We expose ourselves to risk any time we begin a work of art. Children do the same. Will it turn out the way they want it to? Will they be able to control the paint? What if they don’t like it? As [adults] we need to reassure the child that risk is a good thing and that mistakes are learning experiences (Mulcahey, 2009) 

Although we may have used Hundertwasser’s art as a provocation for the children’s work, I feel it is still vital for the children to make choices. In this year’s work, many children decided not to use Hundertwasser but created work from their imaginations. Those that did were given Hundertwasser books and left to browse his pictures until they settled on one that inspired them. In doing this all the children’s work has turned out differently. Some children have painted Hundertwasser's famous lollypop trees in an expanse across their paper, others have painted only one, some children included themselves in their picture, some have created buildings and others patterns. Each child has approached his/her creation differently; there was no right or wrong way to begin or to finish and as such the pieces once again this year are totally stunning.

Providing open-ended experiences based on adult artwork gives children a rich exposure to art and a rich exposure to art experiences. Children are learning and doing at the same time. As children look at examples of works of art that initially inspires them, their visual perception skills are being nurtured (Douglas et al., 1981).

I wish I could show you all the finished pieces, but for now I have included some of the stunning and beautiful final art works for you to see.

Allowing children choices of material and ideas stimulates the imagination and allows the child to think more inventively (Colbert & Taunton, 1990).

Money raised from this fundraiser will go towards purchasing some new outdoor play resources.

Until next time,