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

Follow our blog by email

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Mairtown's Matariki Festivities

The month of June has been busy at Mairtown Kindergarten.  Although it is the start of our winter, which has been wet, cold and dark, luckily this didn’t dampen any of our very special month long Matariki festivities.

I love Matariki (Māori New Year) it is a special time of year that I know the teaching team enjoys planning for, and our tamariki enjoy participating in what has become an important period of reflection and sharing at kindergarten. 

On the 1st of June we started celebrations with our delicious Matariki breakfast, this is greatly anticipated and a real highlight.  It is wonderful to see our tamariki who have previously experienced our breakfast share their experiences with our new tamariki.  Early in the morning the teaching team arrive to prepare an appetising selection of kai to share with our whānau and tamariki.

Matariki symbolises the coming of the Māori New Year.  Matariki has two meanings, both of which refer to the cluster of stars.  Mata Riki means Tiny Eyes, and Mata Ariki means Eyes of God.  Matariki appears in the eastern sky sometime around the shortest day of the year, and is thought to determine how successful the harvest crop will be in the coming season.  The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop will be.

Every day we had been counting down to our breakfast by crossing off a square on our calendar.  It is at these times that we discussed the breakfast with the tamariki who helped to choose and create our magnificent menu.  It certainly was an awesome way to start the day with healthy kai including, smoothies, eggs, sausages, baked beans, a selection of cereals, muesli, yogurt, fruit salad and toast, all served with milo, coffee or tea.

Matariki celebrates the diversity of life.  It’s a celebration of culture, language, spirit and people.

We continued our Matariki celebrations with our annual ‘Harvest Day’ which was held on the 14th of June. This is such a lovely day of sharing any abundant produce, preserves, pickles or home baking with others.  For Māori in years gone by Matariki symbolises the time for planting and harvesting.  The Matariki star constellation marked a time for starting all things new, this was a particularly important period for new crops to be planted and the preserving of old crops to be finished.  The timing of Matariki fell at the end of a harvest and food stores were full.  Meat, fruits, herbs and vegetables had been gathered and preserved and the migration of certain fish ensured a great period of feasts.  Matariki was seen as a time to share with each other, for family and friends to come together and share in the gifts that the land and sea had provided for them.  (Tai Tokerau Tourism)

In Northland we are privileged to have fairly mild winter weather where our land and climate produce plenty of citrus fruit and other produce.  During Matariki it’s a time that we acknowledge what we have and what we have to give.  That’s the great thing about Harvest day, it is an opportunity to share our abundance with others and exchange for something else.  This is the focus of Mairtown’s Harvest Day; sharing, random acts of kindness and nurturing the body and soul of our community.

Our tamariki and whānau were invited to bring an item to share from their garden or pantry.  On Wednesday morning kindergarten was full of excitement as our children brought in their offerings and placed them on the exchange table.  The gifts included citrus, avocados, plants, honey, kumara, pumpkin, eggs, home baking, pickles, jams, herbs, and vegetables.  Some had lovely messages which warmed our hearts and made the exchange even more meaningful.

As our tamariki prepared to leave for the day they were invited to choose something from the harvest table to take home.  It was so lovely to see them excited and full of eagerness as some had been looking at the offerings throughout the day and had clearly made a decision of what they wanted to take home and for others the choice was a little tricky.   

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

Our celebrations every year finish with our annual hangi and lantern parade.  As this is the last event of our Matariki celebrations we spend the month counting down to it and practising our lantern parade song ‘This little light of mine’.  So it would be fair to say it is a highly anticipated and well attended event.

The wonderful thing about our Matariki hangi and lantern parade is that it is enjoyed by many including our current attending families and those who have left.  It is a lovely time to make connections with new friends and reconnect with old friends.  It was great to hear what our tamariki loved about the evening, here are some of their thoughts;
Gracie:  I liked cutting up the fruit and vegetables for the hangi.
Basuru:  The candles because it helped me to see clear in the dark.
Raina:  I loved walking with the lanterns.
Arlo:  The hangi there was lots of things to pick.
Imogen:  Singing the song let it shine.

It is truly a time that our kindergarten community comes together to share energy, time and support to help with the preparations.  The evening’s success is due to the wonderful whānau support we receive to help with many jobs including, lanterns to be made, and food to prepare and cook.  Also a special thank you to the Andrews whānau for the kind sponsorship of their fantastic Multi Kai cooker, it is certainly the star of the evening, producing such a delicious hangi.  Thank you our evening wouldn’t be possible without your support. 

Ma tini, ma mano, ka rapa te whai

By many, by thousands, the work will be accomplished.
Many hands make light work.  Unity is strength.

Thank you to Christine who has exceptional skills in creating a wonderful video of this year’s hangi and evening celebrations.  See below or click here to view.

On behalf of the teaching team I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported, helped, participated and shared in all of our Matariki festivities over the past month. 
He wā motuhake
A special moment

Ngā mihi nui, Susie

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cooking on an open fire at kindergarten

In New Zealand, we are lucky to be a country with 4 distinct seasons. In summer our children become aware of the harshness of the New Zealand sun and the need to wear hats and sun screen. As the seasons progress, it is a time we can discuss and make clear the adventure of change, the natural rhythms of the earth and to observe all of nature around us. In Northland, we are particularly fortunate not to experience harsh winters, we can venture outside every day, yet we still need to wrap up warm at times! Over the last few weeks, we have noticed a definite cooling of our weather, of the arrival of some wintery crisp and chilly mornings. This is a perfect time to begin one of Mairtown’s winter rituals – Thursday fire day.

Obviously in the wrong hands fires are dangerous, so it is important to us, that we only progress with lightening our fires when the we feel the children are sufficiently ready. One way we do this is through lots of discussion, both in small and large groups. At our daily whānau times, and for many days prior to our fires starting we talk through what our fire days are like, (we even bring the unlit fire inside and practice) and of course what the rules are around fires, in order to keep ourselves safe.

 Practising at whānau time

Our children soon become experts on the rules, telling me ‘no scarves or capes, and that means the teachers too, they may burn you as they blow into the fire…walking around the fire only and no being silly…no balls around the fire…you need to keep your feet outside the safety bubble, only the teachers can go in the safety bubble…and…you can’t go outside when the fire is lit until two teachers are there, you have to wait on the step until two teachers are there.’

We have been creating, lighting and cooking food on an outside fire for over 6 years at Mairtown, and we have seen first-hand the benefits in terms of social experiences and cognitive learning that fires can offer. There is something soothing and social about sitting around the fire on a cold day.

 Preparing the fire

Fires create a sense of security and companionship at a very basis level of our humanity, and children should not be excluded from safely experiencing that warm glow (Sara Knight)

Building and preparing the fire ready for it to be lit is also a very important step in learning about fires. Each week the children delight in cleaning out the left overs embers and charcoal from the previous week, scrunching up newspaper and carefully laying kindling in the fire bowl ready for later. Naturally, it is not just the fire that needs preparing, the food we cook also be to be organised and planned. We cook many things over the winter season, but a firm favourite is our garlic and rosemary bread. The children help in the measuring and kneading of the dough and collect rosemary from our garden ready to be cut up and sprinkled in the garlic oil for flavouring.

There is a great deal of preparation on fire day and the children take charge. They arrive in the morning knowing what needs to be done. Collecting some friends, they begin. There is a sense of pride and ownership in their work, and there is lots of delight as they are finally rewarded with cooking their kai and enjoying eating it in the company of others.

The Early Childhood Council tell us that ‘fires can provide a wide range of learning for young children including: Science concepts – how heat changes objects; Cooking – with use of billies, pots, grills; Ethic of care in looking after your friends; Health and safety and how to manage risks, and, Working together as a collaborative community’. I would agree with this, but as I watch the children each week, see their knowledge and confidence grow I also know there is greater learning taking place. I see how building and preparing the fire builds independence and self-confidence. How cooking around the fire and discussing the rules with friends enables them to self-assess risk as well as developing group awareness and cooperation skills. How the simple act of just sitting and watching a fire enables conceptual knowledge about fires to develop, such as the effect of the heat on the wood and the way the wood changes with temperature. There is so much learning in just one relatively simple experience.

 As humans, we have disconnected ourselves from nature and all its elements, we need to find a pathway back. [Fire]…gives us warmth, a sense of security, a source of fuel that can create and alter materials, such as dough into bread…or wood into charcoal (Claire Warden).

For us in the southern hemisphere, we are just at the beginning of out winter sesaon; we can look forward to many more fires at kindergarten and a lot more delicious food being cooked over the next couple of months.
Ngā mihi,