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