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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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Celebrating Kate with a 'Party Day'

Recently there has been great anticipation and excitement as we have been counting down to our ‘Party Day’.  Finally the day arrived and on Wednesday the 27th of September we held our ‘Party Day’ but there was more to it than just a party.  After some sneaky secret planning and organising we managed to surprise Kate as well, it was a party to celebrate Kate and her time with us.

Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.  Dr Seuss

At Mairtown Kindergarten we believe it is really important to celebrate everyone’s time with us.  Over the years we have developed a lovely and meaningful farewell ritual which we surprised Kate with today.  As part of our farewell celebration Kate got to choose a game, she was adorned with some beautiful fabrics, she received one of our beautiful hand made pottery tui and had some delicious kai.  After morning tea the party theme continued with face painting, dancing and party games including musical bumps and statues.

Kate has been with us since August last year as a long-term reliever, yet during that time she has become a valued and treasured member of our team. Kate is a lovely teacher with a gentle, caring nature, we have seen her grow and blossom in the time she has been with us at Mairtown, and I know she will be missed. Today was a wonderful opportunity to be able to say thank you to Kate for all her hard work, to wish her well in the future and to present her with a lovely gift as well as a gorgeous card beautifully illustrated by the children.

You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”  Dr Seuss
The end of term is fast approaching, we hope you all enjoy the term break and we all look forward to seeing you back for term 4 on Monday 16th October.
He wā motuhake
A special moment

Ngā mihi nui

Thursday, 21 September 2017

My Happy Place: A Book of Joy and Aroha.

This term we have been studying a book titled ‘My happy place’ by Melissa Mebus. This is a book featuring happy thoughts and memories contributed by 54 prominent New Zealanders, from actor Sam Neill to musician Ladi6, and from New Zealand's oldest person Maudie Wilson to shepherdess Mandy Thow. Although the words in the book are from these adults, the art work used to illustrate the stories told have all been completed by children. One of the truly wonderful things about this book, is that proceeds from each sale goes to KidsCan, which help Kiwi children living in poverty to aim high and reach their full potential.

This is a book we worked on many years ago and is particularly special, certainly all the children at Mairtown have really enjoyed investigating this book this term. As the weeks have gone by I have sat with many, sometimes one-on-one, other times in small groups and we have looked at the children’s illustrations, guessing what the story of each persons ‘happy place’ is, before I read them out. In doing so, naturally we began to discuss happy places for ourselves. I told the children a happy place for me is spending time with my family when we are all together in one place. As our thoughts and stories flowed I asked the children to ponder on the question ‘What makes your heart feel happy and joyful – where is your happy place?’. The stories each child told me have been beautiful, and I can tell each one has truly thought long and hard about a special moment in time, or a family ritual that brings them happiness in their memories.

As the children each shared their own personal and uniquely different stories of their own ‘happy places’ I encouraged them to draw their ideas. As they drew we further discussed their happy place and their stories became more detailed. It was then that I realised just how reflective yet honest each child was being. It was through this process that each child has been able to bring to the forefront, the things that matter most to them, their memories, passions, people, the places that gives them joy, makes their hearts full and is their own special ‘Happy Place’.

In early childhood education we must also remain committed to promoting broader thinking abilities. They are the foundation upon which children learn to make decisions, regulate their own behaviour, meet complex challenges, and take responsibility for their actions…[and] that metacognition—higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills—develops when children are encouraged to reflect (Epstein, 2003).

As the children completed their art work, many over several days or weeks, I observed how many enjoyed retelling their happy place stories to those around them. It appeared that through this retelling, many times over, they could finalise their thoughts, clarify their stories and very succinctly express their final reflections – a few of which I have shared here for you to enjoy.

Lucas: My happy place is to go and shop and get groceries. I sit in the trolley and mummy pushes the trolley, it’s just me and mummy. I like to get the surprise eggs at times. 

Ezra: My happy place is being in my bedroom reading books and getting lollypops. Mummy reads me books and I sit on her lap when I go to bed. I like that, that makes me happy. 

Charlize: My happy place is playing in the sandpit. Here are mummy and Rosie cat. I make castles cause that makes me happy.

McKenzie: My happy place is going to the beach. I swim in the water, I play with Holly. Mummy and daddy and me go to the beach.

Archie: My happy place is going to the zoo. Luke and Jessica and Teddie and Jake all went to the zoo. I didn’t see the hippo, because the hippo died, but I saw a rhino do a poo (it was very funny!) and a monkey in a tree. And I saw through a window spiders and I saw snakes. We got up when it was dark, it was adventure. The day made me feel happy.

‘Play and the creative arts in early childhood programmes are essential ways children communicate, think, feel and express themselves…Children succeed when they are surrounded by adults who see and believe in the creative competence of all children and are committed to their success in expressing themselves…Given these optimum circumstances, children surprise and delight us – they create structures and thoughts no one has seen or heard before’ (Drew and Rankin, 2004).

As time went on, many more children approached me to create more happy place pictures, whilst some children transferred their knowledge into clay 3-dimensional sculptures. In Oliver’s words ‘I have to keep drawing because I have so many happy places to tell, not just one’.

Supporting children to revisit and revise their work and ideas is essential for thinking and learning. It is through these experiences of repetition, that children engage in their work and play in a meaningful and absorbing manner, whilst also promoting higher level thinking as children are able to recall and make connections to what has been done previously, to plan ahead and to review and evaluate their thinking along the way (NQS-PLP, 2012).

Oliver: My happy place is the beach and it’s because you can make sand castles (but not at the nature programme, there you throw rocks at the water). When I go to the beach it’s sunny and I go with mummy and daddy and Lachlie and Abbey. I love building sandcastles. First, I get a bucket that looks like a castle, put it on the ground and give it a knock with a spade and take the bucket off and it’s a sand castle! It’s always sunny at the beach.

Isla: My happy place is my bedroom cause I sleep in there. It has a bed and a toy chest. I love my bedroom so much.

Drawing is a communication tool which children use to express ideas, not only in externalising their own thoughts but as a means of clarifying for others what it is they are thinking (Schiller, 2004)

Now many weeks later, as I write this blog, we are reaching the end of our happy place stories (well, just for now). And today I was able to take a small group of our children who had created their pictures and/or sculptures to the Whangarei Central Library where they have been on display for the library ‘big day in’ last weekend. Any trip is exciting, but the underlying theme of this visit was the empowerment the children received as they saw their work on display, being admired and valued by members of our community. The feedback we have received from the public about their talents and skills is very special indeed. Making public the children’s work and processes behind their pieces also acts as a form of communication to our local community, highlighting what we as teachers (and our children) value about children’s learning and of course the importance of creativity, the arts and the stories we each share.

‘By exploring art, revisiting ideas and providing a range of media, a child’s skill in the arts increases, this in turn extends communication, vocabulary and critical thinking skills.’ 
(Ann Pelo, 2007)

Ngā Mihi, 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Nurturing sustainable practices – the beauty of the outdoor environment

At Mairtown Kindergarten we have an appreciation for nature and the natural environment and all that it has to offer our children. One part of this notion is that we want our children to develop an appreciation of their own, about how special nature is in our world.
Although sustainable practices have always been something that we have been mindful of as a team we understand there is so much more we can improve on to better the outcomes for children’s learning in this area, as well as developing better practice to support our environment and our world.

"I know how to garden because I do it with my family. We planted grass you know and plants!" (Carter)

After engaging in evaluative practice as a team we came up with some focuses for the year in terms of implementing experiences and opportunities to engage the children in developing a sustainable mindset. One of these focuses was "How can we enhance our sustainability practices in our outdoor area and promote our culture of eco-literacy?"

"I'm gardening with Nonna Peg, we are gardening plants and flowers with my friends." (Juno)

With this in mind I have been working at making sure there are opportunities for the children to be a part of sustainable practices in our outdoor area in the forms of gathering food from our garden and eating it, planting it, feeding our worms in the worm farm, and making garden food in our new compost bin. While working with the children during these learning experiences I have also been making sure that I talk about why we are doing them and asking them questions about why they think it’s important.

The children’s desire to help out and be involved in experiences like this is so delightful and also appears contagious as they all rally around to see what is happening. They have a real sense of ownership in all that they do and they are passionate about looking after the environment that they enjoy and play amongst. When I think about this it reminds me of the Māori concept of Kaitiakitanga which means guardianship, protection, preservation or sheltering. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the traditional Māori world view. 

"These worms are good eaters, they ate all our food." (Lucas) 

"The worms are so good at eating banana skin. I don't like eating banana skin." (Olivia)

“I’m making compost!!! For our garden food!”  (Maxwell)

Many of the children at Mairtown already have a great wealth of knowledge of the importance of looking after our environment and I know that this has been instilled in them from rich experiences that they have often have with family outside of kindergarten. It is lovely to know that they are having the concept of looking after their environment fostered and supported both at home and at kindergarten. We have also been very lucky to have had family become a part of the process, by bringing in plants and seedlings, and planting them with the children.

“Teaching children about the natural world is not just a nice thing to do - it is vital for the future of our children and the future of all life. Children are naturally curious and open to learning about nature, but in an increasingly urban society we often need to consciously create opportunities to help children bond with nature and learn about the environment.”

"I'm getting really muddy hands but thats okay because they need to get muddy when planting the garden." (Archie)

I feel that it is a very important part of my job to support children in gaining knowledge about sustainable practices and the importance behind this. I love that we get to celebrate the small, yet important, learning opportunities like feeding our worms that makes fertiliser for our garden, or making sure our fruit is harvested so it doesn’t rot on the ground. Taking time to incorporate these practices into our daily interactions with the environment is really important.

"Can I help you plant? I like getting plants growing." (Isla)

Another concept that comes into play while engaging in these experiences is ‘eco-literacy’. Having discussions with the children and role modelling sustainability practices is a wonderful way to be on the right track in terms of awaking your eco literacy.
“Eco literacy is “the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible. To be eco literate means understanding the principles of ecological communities (ie: ecosystems) and using those principles for creating sustainable human communities.”

This sounds like a heavy and huge topic to delve into with young children, however I know from past experiences that they are very open to learning about social responsibilities. Sustainability and eco literacy falls in to this realm as taking care of the environment is the job of not one person alone, but of many. I have already seen many of our children being wonderful role models for each other, sharing their ideas and knowledge, and thinking about being mindful within our outdoor environment. I must admit that spending these kinds of moments with the children makes work that more fulfilling and beautiful.

"These seeds will take 20 days to grow into plants, you need to give them dirt and water and help them grow." (Nika) 

-Ko te whenua te waiu mo nga uri whakatipu-
The land will provide sustenance for future generations

"We are growing sunset flowers! They will grow because we are looking after them. We will count the days to watch them grow. I think it will be two days!" (Aris)

Nāku noa, nā,