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, 18 December 2017

Thank you for 2017!

On Friday we celebrated 2017 with our ‘End of Year Celebration’ at Mair Park! Thank you to all of those who could make it along! It was so lovely to see all the children having so much fun together, whānau connecting and just enjoying an evening out! It was yet another Kindergarten event that made my heart feel so happy!

Getting ready for the treasure hunt

Our special visitor arrives... Elf Mike
With the end of the year wrapping up I would just like to say a huge thank you! Thank you to our beautiful children who make each day a joy, who teach us so much, who keep us on our toes and who warm our hearts! Thank you to all our wonderful kindergarten whānau who support our community, who invest time, help us with fundraising, who attend our events and far most importantly, for sharing your beautiful children with us. Thank you to the gorgeous teachers that I work alongside for all your care and love that you share with our children and their whānau, for your endless hard work to be the best teachers you can be, for your support and for your fun loving attitude towards work and life! Susie, Sarah, Christine, Amy and Anne, I appreciate you all so much!

Racing to the playground

Elf Mike making taking messages for Santa

To our children, their whānau and the teachers, you all make Mairtown Kindergarten the special place that it is! We are ending the year farewelling 10 of our kindergarten whānau, please take care and keep in touch! 

Going on a treasure hunt for chocolate gold coins!

So once again thank you for 2017! I look forward to reconnecting in 2018! I hope you all have a beautiful summer holiday and enjoy spending quality time with friends and family. Treasure this special time, create memories and have fun! 

Happy summer holidays.

Kindest regards

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Magic of Christmas

Christmas is such a special time of year, with many different meanings for each whānau. Being in the southern hemisphere, a “Kiwi Christmas” coincides with the arrival of summer. Days are longer, the sun is shining, more time is spent outside in our beautiful natural environment, and most importantly perhaps, is that the arrival of the festive season means we have more time to spend with whānau.

At Mairtown Kindergarten we have several Christmas rituals that have grown naturally over the years and have become a treasured and welcome part of the fabric of our Kindergarten community. The older children remember from the past years celebrations and eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Christmas season.

"Rituals play an important role in society. Rituals remind us of what is important and provide a sense of stability and continuity in our lives" 

(Cathy Stucker, 2009)

Each year at the beginning of December the children put up and decorate our Gratitude Tree. The families then write on a photo of their child a heartfelt message of gratitude and these are hung on our tree – the most meaningful decorations of all. We also have an advent calendar with one draw being opened each day at whānau time and inside each one is a beautiful bauble for our Gratitude tree, because a little bit of sparkle never goes astray!

One of our most eagerly anticipated Christmas rituals is our “Christmas Tree Walk”. We have been participating in the Festival of Christmas Trees since we were invited by our local church several years ago. This is an event where community groups are all invited to decorate a designated tree at the beginning of December, and they remain on display within the church until the arrival of Christmas. With such a large number of trees being decorated as the popularity of the festival has grown over the years, it makes a spectacular display!

The children have been working on many different creative decorations in the weeks leading up to December. A large number of children made unique and individual fairies and angels, children decorated baubles and added their thoughts and ideas about Christmas, we sourced natural materials such as feathers and pinecones and repurposed them into decorations, and some children painted Christmas themed rocks.

Today was the day that the children’s creativity was able to be fully admired as we came together as a group to walk to the church and admire our Mairtown Kindergarten Christmas Tree, along with all of the other interesting and diversely decorated trees on display for the festival. We were welcomed to the church and were able to listen to the Christmas Story. We then showed our appreciation by performing two Christmas songs for our hosts. We were treated to some delicious kai which we shared in the glow of the Christmas trees.

While we were working with the children over the last few weeks, either in small groups or individually to create the decorations, it was a great opportunity to talk with them about what Christmas means to them. Below are some of their words.

What are some special things you do with your family at Christmas time?

Ryker: We make paper decorations with Mum and Kayden.

Ezra: We give presents to other people who don’t have any presents. Toys and stuff that we buy from the shops.

Gus: We put the decorations on the tree and decorate the house with all the decorations. Golden ones and green things with red. Santa comes through our fire and I think he can’t fit because its got a little hole in it.

Amelia: We save some treats for Santa and put them on our table. Santa eats the treats at night. We don’t hear a crunching but we see the presents.

Blue: Pancakes!

Lachlan: We wear costumes for Christmas. I am a ninja turtle and my Mum and Dad are power rangers.

Aris: We decorate the tree. The angel goes at the top and the star goes next to the angel. We got some big socks that came in the mail to hang by the chimney and its got our names on it. 

Liam: I love Christmas time! I like getting presents and having chocolate. I like playing with people like Lachlan.

Freya: I love making presents for everyone. I love to give my Mum and Pop presents. I love surfing in the waves on Christmas morning.

So as the next few weeks of the “silly season” approach and life speeds up in our adult world, I hope you are able to recall the words and thinking of our Kindergarten children. Because, however you choose to celebrate Christmas, it is a time when we seem to make the effort to put the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life aside and create more time for togetherness and making special memories with rituals both at home and at Kindergarten. 

I believe this is the true essence of the season and contributes hugely to that unexplainable “magical” feel of Christmas. This is something that really resonates with children as they are able to come together with their family and add another layer of memories to be treasured far beyond their own childhood years.

Ngā mihi nui and Meri Kirihimete


Friday, 1 December 2017

How we support children to take healthy emotional risks

Risk taking is a huge part of what we do at Mairtown, in fact this topic has been previously blogged, however recently my focus has been on supporting children to take healthy emotional risks.

When I was studying to become a teacher I used to think that risk taking was something thrill seekers do, or is someone who is totally fearless.  Actually risk encompasses much more, including physical, emotional and social, what is really important is helping children to learn and identify what are healthy risks and what are unhealthy risks.

At Mairtown kindergarten we are passionate about providing children with a rich learning environment that offers plenty of opportunities to take responsible risks and I believe it’s wonderful for children to discover and learn for themselves what their comfort levels are as it is different for everyone. 

Being able to take an emotional risk requires children to move beyond their comfort zone and push through that funny feeling in their tummy or for others they may feel worried to take that big step forward to speak in front of their peers or take that first step to put pen to paper.

“Being a healthy emotional risk taker enables you to embrace and grow in your life right now”.  (Shakti Sutriasa, 2016).

Those who know me, know how passionate I am about setting up challenging obstacle courses, knowing it might be a bit tricky.  I love to support and encourage children to take a risk, not only physical but emotional as well.  Within our daily practice there are many emotional risk taking scenarios that our children face, for example; feeling brave to ask a peer to play, to help a friend in need, express gratitude and appreciation to others, choosing to be brave to sit with a different peer at the kai tables or being asked to be our ‘kaia’ to lead our morning waiata or to put their hand up to ask a question or taking on a role where they are at the centre of attention and all the focus is on them. It is these opportunities that offer children meaningful lifelong learning that they will carry in their kete of knowledge throughout life.  

There is plenty of research that supports children learning to take risks, Davis and Eppler-Wolff state that Risks – good and bad – are inevitable from birth. Yet, many of us haven’t given much thought to the ways in which risk unfolds. With a toddler’s first step, he is taking the risk of stepping out into the world – literally and figuratively. When a preschooler enters his new class of teachers and children for the first time, he is taking the risks inherent in separating from the only caretakers he’s known. A shy first grader who raises her hand in class to ask a question takes the risk of appearing stupid in front of her peers. She risks feeling embarrassed, or inadequate. Yet her raised hand allows her to take a risk that leads to feelings of self-assertion and self-expression.  (Susan Davis, Ph.D., and Nancy Eppler-Wolff, Ph.D., 2009)

To develop emotional risk taking skills requires children to be confident within themselves and their abilities, to be able to think through problems that they may face and to be able to think positively, also known as a ‘positive growth mind set’.  This is particularly useful in those times when children are finding courage to be brave.  As children learn and develop their skills of taking emotional risks, this results in children who have more resilience and are able to deal with the disappointment that life sometimes has, including having to wait for a swing to be free, or not being chosen to have a turn, for instance, in a game, at that very moment.

Life is all about choices, there are good choices and bad choices, learning to make good choices I believe is vital for all children to learn.  There has been lots of talk at kindergarten about what a good choice is and what a bad choice is, I believe it is never too early to learn such valuable life long skills.  Developing resilience is an extremely useful skill when learning to take emotional risks, this is supported by research that states “Resilience is the ability to steer through serious life challenges and find ways to bounce back and to thrive.  We are born with the capacity for resilience.  But resilience is not something we have or don’t have.  We work on it throughout our lives.  And need to start as early as possible.  Resilience makes a big difference in people’s lives.  People who respond to hardships with resilience are; healthier and live longer, happier in their relationships, more successful in school and work, and less likely to get depressed”.  (Best Start, Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program, 2012).

At Mairtown we are passionate about providing an environment that allows children plenty of opportunities to be exposed to risk, whether it be physical, emotional, or social.  There is an element of risk in everyday life, this is why I believe it is important for all children to learn the vital skills of risk taking where they are confident in their abilities to assess any potential dangers and be able to spend time to pause and think through what their actions maybe.  As our children leave kindergarten to move onto their next learning journey and throughout the rest of their lives, it is important that they are equipped to be successful learners that can take thoughtful, smart risks and then they will be ready to soar.

Our job is not to inoculate our children against taking risks, but to guide them toward taking good risks. (Susan Davis, Ph.D., and Nancy Eppler-Wolff, Ph.D., 2009)

Mā te wā

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A gift from Tāne Mahuta

Since the beginning of this term, we have had a selection of birds and nests on our central table at kindergarten. The children have enjoyed playing with the birds and listening to each bird’s unique call. From this provocation, we have had many nests arriving at kindergarten, a few hatched eggs that children have been finding at home and even a guinea fowl skull.

Wishing to extend the thinking of the children a little further, I made a trip to the Whangarei Central Library for some New Zealand bird books. When I shared these books with the children on the first day, we simply looked at all the stunning birds that call New Zealand home – noting how big they are, what colour their feathers are, observing any other interesting features and discussing if we had ever seen birds like these when we were out and about.

Because art is a major component of our planning and curriculum, our children at Mairtown are experts when it comes to observational drawing. After a day of simply studying the book and talking, I observed how children were gathering their own resources, picking a picture and beginning to draw what they could see.

Observational drawing is a tool we use a great deal at Mairtown. We see first-hand that when children are drawing an object whilst looking at it in front of them (even when it’s a picture in a book) rather than drawing from memory or imagination, this is when discoveries are made, and when children notice so many new things, often loving to point these findings out and share them with others.

The results of these observational drawings, are very stunning, almost breathtakingly so, yet the learning for the children goes much deeper than the finished product. Observational drawing fosters not only creativity but also cognitive development and creative thinking, it invites children to look very closely at things and to notice all the details. In turn it encourages children to make more intricate drawings than they do from memory alone, often leading to joyful discoveries. It is part of the process of ‘learning to see’ (Kolbe, 2009).

As the days have progressed we have been drawing (lots and lots) and making new discoveries. This is also a way for the children to share what they already know, and perhaps more importantly what they would like to know! I have observed how, as the children have been drawing their birds, how their creative thinking has really blossomed. I was amazed by the questions the children were asking, and then answering, whilst working together in small groups.

I am also reminded about the words of Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to education, who felt it was important for the art studio to be subversive; a combination of both art studio and science laboratory. This is certainly evident in the small conversation below I recorded, as the children drew and talked about kiwis. Whilst the children are drawing, you can read how they are able to work through ideas, hypothesise, test theories and answer their own questions. Read this wonderful example of rich conversation as a group of children drew kiwis and shared their stories.

Brown Kiwi


Ezra: I know about kiwi’s, they live in a forest.
Piper: There are lots of kiwi’s.
Ezra: Yes, some have spots (Ezra is currently drawing a brown kiwi).
Me: The one with spots is called a little spotted kiwi, or a great spotted kiwi. The one without spots has a different name, its name is a brown kiwi.
Ollie (finds the kiwi’s in the book): Hmm, I see they look quite different (he begins to draw a little spotted kiwi) some of him is white.
Ezra: But I can still see brown and a little orange.
Piper: I notice the spots are brown and white, and on its head you get spots.
Ezra: The kiwi has a beak to peck stuff.
Ollie: And to protect themselves Ezra.
Ezra: Yes, to get away from predators!
Kobi (turning to explain this idea to me): That’s so no one can eat them!
Me: What else do we know about kiwi’s?
Max C: They fly.
Ollie: No they don’t fly, see they have no wings.
Ezra: Yes, no wings, I haven’t drawn wings, only feathers!
Ollie: I know they have a good sense of smell.
Me: Why would they need to be able to smell?
Ollie: So they can hear people.
Ezra: They need to be able to smell where the predators are.
Ollie: So they can know what the things are and so they know what they are going to eat.
Kobi: So, they may smell for other animals that like eating kiwi? So they can smell the cat,
when the cat is coming?
Ollie: Yes! Then they might use their beaks to protect themselves. My question is, the reason kiwis have these colours, is when they are next to something the same colour they can’t get eaten. We need to look after them, not kill them.
Me: So the kiwi is camoflauged Ollie?
Kobi: I know that word, it means the same colour.
Ollie: Yes, camoflauged, but we have to hope no one steps on them!

Pied Stilt

When thinking is part of their routine, children become alert to situations that call for thinking (Salmon, 2010)

As we continued to work on our study of New Zealand birds, what happened next, came as a big surprise to everyone (including me!). As the teachers arrived into kindergarten one morning, lying on the step was a dead bird.

Because we had been studying birds for several weeks, but only being able to see the details of them up close through books, I was really keen to share this taonga (treasure) with the children. Children are natural scientists, full of questions and wonder, not at all as squeamish as we adults can be, yet I was still mindful to honour the occasion and role-model respect. Before I shared this beautiful bird, I carefully wrapped it in some fabric and placed it in one of our lovely boxes. We paid tribute to the bird by saying our ‘Mihi ki te Ngahere’ and I talked about the bird being gifted to us from Tāne Mahuta, who in Māori legend is Guardian of the forest, his children being all the birds and trees.

The children all sensed the significance of the occasion and were extremely respectful and very empathetic. They all wanted to hold the bird and stroke it, but showed care, consideration and lots of revere. We looked through our books trying to identify what kind of bird it was, the children took their time to look at each picture (and there were many) and look for similarities and differences. We soon settled on the blackbird page, and from further investigation we were able to conclude that we felt our bird was a young blackbird. As you may imagine, the conversation during this time was plentiful, rich and meaningful, many children wanted to contribute their thoughts and findings. Some of the topics we talked about included how the bird arrived at kindergarten and why we thought Tāne Mahuta gifted one of his children to us?

In Māori tradition, people and forests are vitally connected both were created by Tāne Mahuta the Guardian of the forest and all the resides in it. A magical realm guarded by lizards, birds and other creatures, the forest also provided Māori with the necessities of life (Roimata Macfarlane, 2017)

Here is some of the special conversation that took place.
McKenzie: Is it dead?
Max: Yes.
Freya: No I think its just sleeping.
Olivia: Is it a real bird?
McKenzie: Yes, yes it is! I think its dead cause its not flying.
Freya: But maybe its having a rest.
McKenzie: No it’s not asleep, it’s dead. I know cause it’s not flying and I’d wake up if I was asleep with me touching its wings, and it’s not waking up, so it must be dead.
Max: It has sharp claws.
McKenzie: It’s not a water bird (pointing to some in the book) as water birds have flippers for feet.
Max: And we know its not a seagull cause this one is brownie with yellow and black.
Me: Why do you think Tāne Mahuta gifted us this bird?
McKenzie: I think he took it from the forest, and put it on the step in your box with a lid on when no one was here, no kids or teachers, perhaps at night time. It’s cause we’re Tāne Mahuta’s friend.
Lucas: He wanted to give us a special present.
McKenzie: Or he gave it to a teacher, so when the kids came to kindergarten the teacher can show it to the children.
Freya: I think he gives us this present cause he thought we look at birds all the time.
Ollie and Archie join us for the first time, the other children explain what we know so far. 
Ollie: Ah, feel its wings, they feel like fabric, its beak feels like plastic and its leg feels like glass and its feathers feel like feathers.
McKenzie: And see, it’s claws have spikes.
Ollie: Yes, they do.
We go back to thinking about why Tāne Mahuta gifted us this bird.
Ollie: I think he wanted us to see what it feels like when we touch it.
Archie: Maybe Tāne Mahuta gives birds to everyone? Hmm, yes that is the truth!
Me: What shall we do with Tāne Mahuta’s bird when we have finished looking at him.
Ollie: We must be very careful with him, we should pop him in a precious place. If its dead the skin will start to come off.
Lucas: We will have to bury him in the cemetery.
Ollie: Yes, lets bury him and I’ll make a present so it’s special.
McKenzie: That’s like Father Christmas, he gives presents to us as we are special to him and love him. We are giving presents to the bird cause we love him, the bird is special to all the teachers and children.
Ollie: Tāne Mahuta will be happy about how we have looked after his bird.

As children listen to each other’s ideas and see each other’s work, they have opportunities to learn that there are different points of view. Through exploring a topic in different ways and from different perspectives, they expand their understandings' (Kolbe)

And our special morning ended with the children burying the bird at the back of kindergarten with rose petals and special pictures they had drawn for it. I can’t help but agree with Ollie, I think Tāne Mahuta would be very happy about how the children of Mairtown took care of his precious bird.

Learning such as this is so very magical. When children are left to their own inquiries and creative thinking, and we as teachers follow their lead (rather than take over), we can see just how much the children take charge of their own learning. I can only imagine how empowering this must be, as they have clear ownership over what they feel they need to, and want to, learn more about. I can’t help but get excited when I’m working with children in small groups and listen to them telling their stories, working out their ideas and inquiring as they have done (in just this small example of some of our bird study). The learning the children are each undertaking here is so personal to them as for each of them the learning will look different, each will be asking their own questions, then each will be researching their answers in different ways. Such a very valuable aspect of learning, and one that I feel honoured to be a part of as an early childhood teacher.

Song Thrush

‘Children who respect the environment feel an emotional attachment to the natural world, and deeply understand the link between themselves and nature, will become environmentally literate citizens. The task of environmental education for young children is to forge the bond between children and nature’ (NAAEE).


Hei konā mai,