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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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Our New Friend Bluey - The Blue Tongued Lizard

At the beginning of June, something exciting happened at kindergarten. We welcomed a new friend into our whānau, Bluey, our blue tongued lizard. One of the reasons we wanted a pet at kindergarten was following on from looking after our tadpoles and frogs (you can read our blogpost about them here). When we had the tadpoles, which of course turned into frogs, we could see first-hand how the children were experiencing many learning opportunities, including learning to empathise as they cared for and interacted with the small creatures.  

Bluey our lizard, came to us as just a baby, and has been warmly welcomed into our whānau. The children simply adore him. When he arrived, one of the first things we set about doing was thinking of a name. There were many options suggested from all our whānau and children, and after a vote – Bluey won.

Bluey is still only a baby, so every week we take the opportunity to measure him. It’s been amazing to see how much he has grown.  In 10 weeks Bluey has grown an incredible 13cm, from 26cm to 39cm. The interest in Bluey along with the care and knowledge the children have for him, continues to grow each day. From day one many were wanting to stroke Bluey, help me make his food, and clean out his terrarium.The children have been great leaders even with their own whānau, they have not hesitated to hold Bluey, when in fact many adults were a little more reluctant!

From this...

...to this - 39cm - and still growing!

Shortly after arriving, Bluey had his first skin shed with us and the children were fascinated. As you can imagine there were lots of questions and a fair amount of concern for Bluey. Was this normal? Did it hurt him? Was he dying? Is this how he changes his clothes? These questions lead to lots of in-depth discussion about Bluey’s skin and this is when many children observed how he also appears to change colour. Sometimes Bluey’s skin is orangey in colour, sometimes it’s almost grey and at times it appears brown. Why this happens I am leaving the children to continue investigating together. For the moment, we are playing around with our thinking and coming up with ideas. Basuru suggested just today, ‘So I think that in the winter the stripes will be orange and in the summer the stripes will be grey. He’s grey now because it’s summer today (it was a particularly warm winters day), but look, if you see, Bluey also has a lot of black on him’.

As we look after Bluey, and I encourage the children to observe him – to see if he likes something, does he prefer us to be quiet or noisy?, is he content?, or scared?, we often engage in some observational drawing of him. This is a tool we use a great deal at Mairtown. The simple action of sitting down and drawing something that is in front of us, encourages us to study this particular thing carefully and in-depth. In the words of Kolbe (2009) observational drawing 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’.

Here is some of the conversation and subsequent discoveries the children have noticed through the observational drawing of Bluey.
Elsie: I noticed that he has black on him.
Aya:  I notice that he can walk backwards and he walks only slowly.
Isla D: I see he has a blue tongue and he likes to climb.
Adam: I can see that he has 5 fingers like me.
Matthew: I notice how much he grown, he’s bigger than the other term.
Arlo: Yes he’s bigger, he longer, he’s very long now.
Amelia: Look if I measure him, he's bigger than my arm now.
Juno: He’s got stripes, all the way down to his tail.
Isla T: But look Juno, a stripe goes the other way on his face, and he is scaly, there are lots of scaly bits on his head.


As we talked about what we noticed soon our conversation moved onto what we love about Bluey?
Aria: I love his stripes.
Isla D: And I like touching him.
Nika: I love looking after him. We look after him in his cage all the time. Sometimes we get him out so he can have a play around.
Isla D: And a stoke.
Nika: He does like having a stroke. We also need to give him food, I like feeding him.
Elsie: Yes, we need to do that, we give him apples, bananas and cat food.
Archie: He doesn’t just need food. We need to keep him warm in his tank. He has a red heater for that.
McKenzie: And he has hay to sleep on to keep him warm and he likes to sit on his rock and watch us.

The animal is a conduit for learning to be human: Some propose that it is only through the animal that we recognise our humanity (Jill Bone, 2003).

One thing I have really enjoyed watching is the growing empathy from the children that comes from having an animal to look after. I have been so very impressed with all our tamariki and how gentle and concerned they all are for Bluey’s well-being. It is the children who are the first to recognise, and then remind one another, if they are being too rough when they handle or stroke Bluey. The care, sensitivity and responsiveness to such a small animal has been truly heart-warming to observe.  Of course, many of our children have animals at home so may be used to looking after pets and readily and eagerly share this knowledge, but for many the responsibility of caring and thinking about something other than themselves, is very new.

Having a pet…gives children the opportunity to observe, interact and learn about animals. It can be a valuable part of a child’s education and care experience, enriching their learning about nature, ecology and relationships (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority).

Empathy is such an important part of how we live and function in society, something that I believe needs to be developed and role-modelled within our children, yet can often be forgotten and not considered important or relevant. However, research tells us, Empathy, the ability to understand others and feel compassion for them, is arguably the most defining human quality – setting us apart from…other animals. Without it, we couldn’t function in social areas such as schools… and office workplaces that are the cornerstones of our society… it is at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element of emotional intelligence the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. Empathy goes far beyond sympathy, which might be considered ‘feeling for’ someone. Empathy, instead, is ‘feeling with’ that person, through the use of imagination (world.edu global education network, 2016).

Our children at Mairtown play a huge role in looking after Bluey, something we want to continue to foster and encourage. They are learning to predict his needs by thinking about matters from the perspective of Bluey, which is an amazing skill to have.  We think Bluey is one very lucky lizard to have so many children who love him. Or in the words of Mayson ‘I love Bluey so very very much, I just have to kiss him to let him know’.

Ngā mihi,

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Whangarei Rocks - Mairtown Kindergarten jumps on board a positive movement for community

At Mairtown Kindergarten the teaching team are passionate about many things that support the delivery of high quality learning experiences for the children that attend the service. This includes nature based learning, creativity (art as a language) and building relationships with and making connections with community. When we came across the concept of ‘Whangarei Rocks’ we were so excited by its possibilities to enhance our kindergarten's practice in all these areas. 

So, what is does this concept involve? It is a wonderful initiative where people are invited to paint rocks, then hide them in local parks and reserves for others to find. Once they are found you are encouraged to take a photo and upload it onto the ‘Whangarei Rocks’ Facebook page before re-hiding it in another location for others to find and enjoy. 

On the Facebook page, they go into more detail about where the concept originated, stating, “Whangarei Rocks was started by a group of local artists. The group has been modelled after Port Angeles Rocks, where local artists came together to start hiding painted rocks all around the Port Angeles community in Washington State, USA. It has grown into a true worldwide phenomenon, sparking people to join painting groups, paint on their own, get out there walking, hiding and finding rocks.” (Whangarei Rocks Admin Facebook Page)

Earlier this year after learning about ‘Whangarei Rocks’ we decided that it would be great to participate by taking painted rocks on our Nature Programme. This became a part of our weekly excursions to the bush and something that the children all enjoyed been a part of. 

We then took it to the next level when we sent six rocks over to Europe with Christine. Finding out that people on the other side of the world were now becoming a part of this process of finding and hiding rocks from Whangarei was very exciting. 

To extend on this interest we set up a table at kindergarten with its sole purpose to paint rocks and it was constantly busy with children wanting to be creative decorating them. By now the ‘Whangarei Rocks’ movement was huge and most of our children had an experience to share about finding and hiding rocks. Over a few weeks we had managed to collaboratively paint 77 rocks and these were then offered out to our kindergarten whānau to take and hide.

So that is an outline of how we got on board with ‘Whangarei Rocks’ at Mairtown Kindergarten. During this process, it has made me reflect on the greatness that this concept offers for our children, our whānau and our community. 

Firstly, the desire the children had to decorate these rocks knowing that they would be shared with and enjoyed by others in the community was heart-warming. It encourages creativity, using rocks and paint as medium to create happiness and delight for many. 

The second part of the wonderfulness is that this simple act of hiding painted rocks in the community has had such a positive effect on many lives. I am lucky enough to have young children myself and have experienced rock hunting first hand. Our painted rocks from kindergarten are turning up on the Facebook page, along with photos of our kindergarten children also hiding the rocks that we sent home with them.

I have also heard many of our children and our kindergarten whānau talk about how they really enjoy the concept. It is a free activity to do with your family, it gets you out and about exploring the wonderful parks and reserves that the community has to offer and it creates occasions for families to spend quality time together while being physically active. 

These are all wonderful opportunities and experiences but I must admit the most rewarding and soul warming part of being involved with ‘Whangarei Rocks’ is the that our children are able to explore the concept of ‘giving’, knowing that by hiding a rock for someone else to find will make there day that much brighter.

When contacting Amy King who has the role as admin on the ‘Whangarei Rocks’ Facebook page she shared, “I am so excited by what the “rocks” movement has done for children and families all over the place!! Kindness, creativity, outdoors adventures, quality time as a whānau… makes my heart happy!”

The fact that it is also getting families out and about, exploring our wonderful natural environment is fantastic. We have so many great parks and reserves at our door step and now they are busier than ever. Whānau are actively seeking out areas to hide rocks and are encouraging others to go and find them by placing an update on the ‘Whangarei Rocks’ page as clue to go hunting. 

For the Mairtown teaching team promoting getting out in the natural environment is important to us and something that we do through our own Nature Programme. The ‘Whangarei Rocks movement has supported this promotion and is another way that we can encourage and inspire our children and whānau to be immersed and gain a deeper appreciation for what our local reserves have to offer.

“In New Zealand, we pride ourselves on our outstanding natural environment, but how connected are we to it really, and how are we sharing it with our children? Intuition and research tells us fewer children are having direct experiences with nature. They are spending more time playing indoors, in front of the computer, television or connected to mp3s or gaming devices. We also know that early and frequent positive experiences in the natural environment have a major impact on the healthy growth of a child’s mind, body and spirit. As parents, grandparents and/or guardians we have a critical role in fostering that natural ‘sense of wonder’ that kids have. Connecting our children with nature through hands-on, informal exploration and play is a great way to do this.” (Exploring nature with children, DoC NZ)

I am thankful that the teachers at Mairtown have been made aware of ‘Whangarei Rocks’ and I would encourage anyone in the area to look up the Facebook page and get involved if they haven’t already. Also, if you are not in the vicinity of Whangarei there is probably a group up and running in your area so search them out and if there isn’t, create your own group. The positive social and emotional impact that this concept has is amazing and if we as early childhood educators can help support and spread the message about its greatness, then that is fantastic.

This final quote sums up the beautiful movement of rock hunting.

“The meaning of the painted rock movement – It’s not about racing out to find the best rocks before anyone else can get there, or how many rocks you can collect at one time. It’s not a game or a contest.
It’s about random acts of kindness. Sharing a little piece of art with a total stranger. Or exchanging with a friend. It’s about people getting together to paint and laugh. It’s about making someone’s day brighter, or sending a little message of encouragement to someone who needs it. It’s positive energy that we send out in the smallest of things, without expecting anything in return. As a group we can make this happen.”

So happy rock hunting to all our Mairtown Kindergarten Blog followers, I hope you get to experience the delight of the ‘Rocks’ movement.

Nāku noa, nā