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, 27 June 2016

Our Rotten Log: Celebrating Teachable Moments

We have some wonderful big logs in our kindergarten playground that the children use to climb on and jump off. They are used to foster imaginary play as the children turn them into castles, boats, forts and so on. We love our logs as they support our children’s learning and development in so many complex ways; physically, emotionally, socially, as well as providing a direct opportunity for the children to connect with nature in a fun and dynamic way.

Lately one of our logs (a large piece of kahikatea) has created another learning path as we discovered that it was starting to rot. When it was revealed that the wood was quite soft the children, Christine and I started to scratch around. At this stage in the experience Christine and I could have shut down the learning that could come about from this due to the rotten wood being a risk in our environment. Instead of this we both embraced this treasure that had been found and began encouraging the children involved to explore, question and think about what they were finding. This is what we refer to as a ‘teachable moment’ and is something that we like to utilise in our work with children.

“Teachable moments are times when something unexpected occurs and the teacher helps to guide the unexpected occurrence into a learning opportunity. “Pre-schoolers are discovering the world around them. Their natural curiosity and need-to-know creates many opportunities for teachable moments. The teacher has to develop a teaching perspective in order to not miss out on unexpected learning opportunities. Every preschool teacher should have an understanding of what a teachable moment is and how to look at every moment from a teaching perspective.” (Stewart, 2009)

This lead to some great findings, most excitingly was the unearthing of what we thought were baby kauri snails. The children were so engaged as they carefully started to pull away the rotting wood, closely sifting through the pieces for these precious snails. After finding about twenty of the snails, it was decided that we needed to do some more research about what to do next. Christine contacted DoC who informed us that they wouldn’t be kauri snails as they don’t live in logs, however they would be a native New Zealand snail that should be returned to native bush if possible. After doing some more research on native snails of New Zealand it was discovered that there was thousands to choose from. So with all this in mind and the fact that we run our Nature Programme once a week, the children made it their mission to save the snails by delivering them back to the bush in Mair Park.

Alongside the inquiry of finding out more about the snails, some of the children also started to embark on representing their findings through drawing and the use of clay. 

They shared their thinking about how the snails made their way to kindergarten saying things like,

“Well I think they slide from Auckland, but a person had to pick them up and drive them some of the way because it is long from Auckland. They dropped them at kindergarten. The gate was locked but they are so small they just slided right under and came to our log.” (Franchi)

It was lovely hearing the children sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other during this process. 

 This rotting log also created a scenario that required a ‘health and safety’ assessment as the rotting wood was a place where the children like to climb and play. After completing a hazard report we came to the conclusion that the learning and engagement that was happening around the log was very beneficial for the children involved. Therefore, instead of placing a cordon around the area and not letting the children go near this space until we had ‘removed’ the hazard, we decided to celebrate this happening. Yes, now this area was full of more potential risks when children were playing there, however we know that great learning can come from letting children be involved with their own risk assessment.

The children helped make ‘be careful’ signs, outlining the fact that it wasn’t ok to walk or jump on top of the log. We discussed what was happening at group times and reminded the children while they were playing in the area to be mindful of the rotten wood. By this hazard being monitored and managed in this way, the flow on effect was that the children were able to explore, engage and interact in meaningful ways with such a wonderful natural resource. I love the fact that I work amongst a team of teachers that embrace experiences like this, rather than instantly shutting things down.

“Risky play is an invaluable part of childhood. Research shows that not only does it increase children’s physical and motor skills but also teaches them about their own limits, and how to deal with risks in the future. Children´s safety however is an ever increasing issue that some teachers are anxious about. This worry about children injuring themselves (or others) during risky play is preventing some children from having the opportunity to engage in such activities. Thus, it is important that teachers provide children with an environment where they can engage in risky play that is as safe as necessary rather than as safe as possible… The more children are free to engage in risky play the better they will be at managing risks, judging what they are capable of, and keeping themselves safe. The role of the teacher is to provide a challenging and risky learning environment that will support all children as they become more motivated, curious, able, and adventurous.” (Wilkinson, 2015)

After the children have finished showing an interest in this rotten log, our plan is to get it removed. This is also exciting as it is going to open up a new place that we can plan and play with to create a new and inspiring play space.

Hei konā mai,

Monday, 20 June 2016

Teaching position available at Mairtown Kindergarten

If you have a passion for providing excellence in Early Childhood Education, love your career and want to make a difference in the lives of children and their families here is your chance to join our team of dedicated professionals (beautifully illustrated above).
For more informtion about applying for this position please see the details below for links to application forms etc.
Mairtown LTR teacher  vacancy 637288
One year (fixed term) LTR Full time K1 Teacher, Mairtown Kindergarten, 21 Princes Street, Whangarei. This four teacher all day model kindergarten operates Monday to Friday with a roll of 40. Applicants must hold a minimum Dip. Teaching (ECE) or higher qualification, current registration & first aid certificate.
Download an application pack and position description from the website www.nka.org.nz. Or phone 09 4359 099, email appointments@nka.org.nz Closing date for applications & referees reports is 2 pm Friday 8 July, 2016. Email Applications to: appointments@nka.org.nz OR Post to: Appointments Secretary, Northland Kindergarten, P O Box 4005, Whangarei 0141.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Seeing the art in nature

One of the things I love about my work at Mairtown kindergarten is the fact that nature plays an integral part of our curriculum. Yes, we run a nature programme, but we also utilise nature in our kindergarten environment as much as we possibly can.

Ephemeral art is a wonderful opportunity for the children at Mairtown, and myself, to get really close to nature, to study its beauty, its patterns, its colours, its texture and smells in minute detail whist also creating stunning art works.

So what is ephemeral art? Basically it is art that only lasts for a short amount of time and is often used to describe creativity based in and from nature. The Tate art gallery tells us ‘There are many forms of ephemeral art, from sculpture to performance, but the term is usually used to describe a work of art that only occurs once, like a happening, and cannot be embodied in any lasting objects’.

From my perspective as a teacher, ephemeral art is an unstructured and free form of art which invites the artists to engage with Papatuanuku, as they utilise materials created in and by nature. What I really enjoy witnessing is children fully exploring, with all their senses, the materials laid out for them – be it shells from a local beach, pine cones from a nearby park, flowers from a garden, leaves from deciduous tress etc. I feel it is in this process that many children, and also myself, learn about our New Zealand identity, our culture, our place and our community.

From my experience children seem to be intrinsically drawn to ephemeral art, they often collaborate together on pieces, looking for just the right shade of leaf, or shape of stick to finish off a creation. Personally I encourage the unhurried approach to this aspect of art. Much is discovered in the making of these natural art pieces, there is a richness to the learning that cannot be rushed. Working with nature is enchanting, each leaf or petal is different from the one before, it is fascinating to sit back and observe the children as they express wonder and ponder over each observed detail.

We noticed that teachers who facilitate ephemeral art create a banquet for the senses and give children the freedom to touch, get dirty and messy, smell, listen, observe and think (Napier kindergarten Association).

And although, so far I have discussed ephemeral art in relation to being inside at kindergarten, this isn’t the only place where ephemeral art occurs for us. In fact, one of the most special places has to be outside as nature intended, hence on our nature programme this is something the children often choose to engage in. They take time out of the busyness of their morning to collect fallen items, to sit, relax, sort and create. We also love to return a week a later, sometimes more, and notice how the rain, wind and sun has altered our original creations, often creating something we can further add to.

Another aspect of ephemeral art that is perhaps even more important is that of ecological literacy. This is a term I heard for the first time when I attended some professional learning with Ann Pelo (author and master teacher). Ann talked about how if we want the next generation to save the world, we first need to teach them how to love the world. By introducing ephemeral art, children learn more about the world around them in a scientific manner and also from a literacy perspective as we name acorns, compare colours of moss, talk about different tree species and their leaves, and examine stones and shells. 

Giving a name to something is a way of knowing it. People are unlikely to value what they cannot name (Elaine Brooks)

As I watch the children create their art I am always delighted by just how gentle and respectful of the delicate resources they are. I can’t help but feel this is a true indication that the children of Mairtown have learnt to respect, appreciate and value nature…to love the world.

Art helps us build our vocabulary by participation, by helping us see emotionally, relationally, and imaginatively. It invites us into being in the world (Ann Pelo).

Mā te wā,