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, 30 July 2018

Kindness in our Hearts

Much of last term we started looking at the book ‘In my heart – a book of feelings’ by Jo Wilek. This is a beautiful book and a wonderful way in which to explore emotions and feelings with children. The book tells the story of a little girl whose heart experiences many different emotions, and tells us: 
Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.

Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness are all emotions the girl in the story explores because…our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. 

When we first began to explore this book, we talked about the range of emotions this girl was feeling, how they physically affected her, and how her heart responded to each one. No doubt, because of the thoughtful yet direct words alongside the illustrations in this book – all the children at Mairtown could easily relate to this girl and started to share some of the ways their hearts have felt happy, sad, silly, angry and so on.

Exploring the different emotions that we all at some point feel, is an interesting topic to work on with children. For instance all of us at times feel angry or frustrated, sometimes we may feel shy or at times sad, and I believe it’s important for children to know that these emotions are normal; this is what it means to be human, it is how we deal with these emotions that is important for us.

Using this book as a provocation lead to many interesting conversations with the children. As I often do, I also invited the children to explore this topic of emotions using the language of art. Many drew hearts and narrated their words to me, whilst others drew moments in time that had made their hearts feel a particular way. 

Talking about our emotions is a topic many early childhood centres often engage in, as early childhood is when children begin developing their social and emotional skills, which leads onto  influencing their mental health and well-being, both now and in the future (Kidsmatter)

Children learn the meaning of emotions; what they feel like, what can cause them, how to understand and express these feelings and how to analyse social situations, all through the important relationships in their life's including their whānau and caregivers, family friends, their peers and their early childhood teachers.

In these early days at kindergarten, we explored the book as well as exploring our own emotions. The book certainly acted as a positive role model to support the children’s understandings and use of emotional language. As we worked in small groups sharing experiences and emotions that made our hearts feel a certain way, I could see how this work was providing a safe way in which the children were able to look more carefully at some of their own emotions; at what they have felt, of what they are feeling now, or of how certain things have made them feel in the past. Naturally, as we all shared some of these emotions, we talked amongst ourselves about ways in which we can handle and manage more emotionally difficult situations. For many of our children some of these more difficult situations are big challenges for them; feeling of sadness as they say goodbye to mum or dad in the morning or dealing with a friend leaving for school, feelings of frustration when they can’t quite succeed in a task yet such as swinging yourself or getting across the monkey bars, or feelings of excitement when playing a favourite game or thinking about your upcoming birthday.

Here are some of the ‘heartful’ emotions that our children were able to recognise and identify.

Senushi: My heart can feel helpful, like today I helped you and I help my sister tidy up the playroom and it made her heart happy.
Max: Once my heart was scared when I saw a really scary crocodile and when I think about ghosts.
Ezra: Max that would make my heart feel scared too. When things creep outside and go boo at night time, that makes my heart feel scared.
Taikura: My heart doesn’t feel scared at night time, it just feels tired.
Kaia: When I go to bed my heart feels calm as mumma reads me a story on the couch.
Ezra: When my daddy tickles me I laugh and that always makes my heart feel giggly.
Charlize: When I was at home my heart felt angry because mummy growled at me, cause I growled at her first! Then afterwards my heart felt happy when we were friends again.
Riley: My heart can feel proud, like when I go up Parihaka cause its hard.
Lilly: I have had an excited heart. Trips make me excited, like the dairy, like Lucas’s school. And Christmas and having a sleep over.
McKenzie: I have drawn my happy joyful heart. My little sister makes me feel happy cause she plays with me lots. Hers be the mummy and I’m the little baby.
Olivia: Mine is a love happy heart and it has a rainbow inside. It makes you happy when you love things. I love mummy, daddy, Sienna, my cat and my guinea pigs.
Charlize: I haven’t had a broken heart, but I know you can have them.
Max: Yes, its gets broken when you say bad bad words. That’s why teachers are teachers.

For most of us, including many adults, it can take years to learn to recognise the feelings we have inside our bodies, and of course how to react to these – either with good emotions or less positive ones. I know that even as an adult, I can feel new emotions at times and have to figure out how to safely cope with these feelings and how to express them. Emotional competency often matures with age, but even at the young age of 3, 4 and 5, it is very important to start dealing with feelings in a positive way by discussing what an emotion is, how you feel at moments in time, and how to handle those in a positive way for the rest of our lives.

By valuing your children’s emotions, you are teaching them that their feelings matter (C. Cox)

As we worked on the feelings our hearts encountered as well as our art work to represent some of these emotions, there were three key points we all reflected on when sharing our stories.  Working together we all helped, when needed, to identify the feeling someone may have felt; were they, for instance, happy, sad, mad or excited?  We talked and tried to explain this emotion to others, so they could put themselves in our shoes, and understand what that was like and that there is no right or wrong way to feel during a situation. For example, ‘If I am happy I feel like smiling, when I am excited I like to spin and dance’. And finally we looked at how to express these feelings from our hearts. When feeling mad, we can run outside on the grass to get rid of some of the energy we have, or we can take deep breaths to help calm us down.

‘Studies have shown that having a high emotional quotient – that is being able to understand one’s own feelings and the feelings of others and having self-control and being able to control one’s own emotions – is an important component of success in life’ (Lee, 2017)

Naturally over time our work moved on from the feelings our hearts can experience to thinking about one particular characteristic – that of kindness.  This happened as children talked about gestures their friends had done that were kind, and made their hearts feel happy. Alongside that we also introduced the children to the interactive book ‘Oat the Goat’ (an initiative launched by the Ministry of Education – see here) which highlights the importance of being kind to one another. 

The children continued to draw different pictures expressing emotions, and moved onto drawing some stunning heart pictures as we explored the question ‘What does it mean to be kind?’.

Kindness is a simple eight letter word that has the extraordinary power to make the world a better place (source unknown)

As we worked we shared our views on kindness, and as a teacher I believe it is important to practice what I teach by inspiring the children to share their kindnesses with one another and to spread kindness wherever they go.

At Mairtown all the teachers show kindness by listening to everyone, by being friendly, supportive and encouraging, by being sensitive to the needs of others, by role modelling respect and trust and by nurturing positive interactions with the children. Kindness has certainly been spreading throughout our environment, children are gifting pictures to one another, taking the time to recognise when someone is in need of a friend, pushing someone on the swing, helping someone who is hurt – there are so many beautiful acts of kindness it would be hard to list them all.

Here are our children’s views on kindness and what it means to them:

Max: Kindness means to be loving and caring.
Awhina: And to be sharing.
Adeline: And pushing (on the swing).
Senushi: Being friends is being kind
Awhina: And talking, you can talk with kindness, we can say please, like ‘please can I have the paint’.
Max: And saying ‘Are you all right?’, it means using good words as kindness.
Freya: Kindness is to say ‘Come and play with me?’, that’ll make them have happy hearts.
Amelia C: And you have to listen to people.
Thorfinn: You can say sorry too, like don’t throw sand and if you do you can say sorry.
McKenzie: And if you see someone sad we be their friends, and if they don’t have any stuff at kindy we can show them where it is.

‘Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love’ Lao Tzu

Hei konā mai,

Friday, 20 July 2018

Congratulations Zair

Before the new term begins this coming Monday, I thought I should celebrate some good news with our community and whānau. Tonight (Friday 20th July) the Northland Kindergarten Association held their annual appreciation evening and Zair was awarded a Kauri Scholarship to attend one of the 5-8 day outward bound courses focusing on leadership – well done Zair J

For those who would like to know more click here for a link to the outward bound website. 

The outward bound website states,
'Our focus lies in building transferable skill and attitudes that remain far beyond a participant's time with us. Lessons learnt are applicable to work, study, home - and they last for life.'

Zair was away for the awards, so the rest of the Mairtown team were more than happy to collect it on her behalf.

Zair is an amazing teacher and certainly one of a kind. She has a caring heart, is passionate about the early years, is a great leader, and is most certainly an inspiration to all of us  -  we are all so very proud of her! Well done Zair we know you will be fantastic and that you will use this experience to enhance your practice further through this leadership opportunity.

Ngā Mihi nui,

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Nature kindergarten published research

In 2015 the Mairtown teaching team were fortunate enough to be able to take part in some research on Nature Kindergartens through La Trobe University, Australia.

Of course,  and as everyone will know, the whole of the Mairtown Kindergarten team really value the nature programme that we run for our oldest 10 children. It is through our nature programme, that we have seen the benefits our children gain. For instance resilience, sensory exploration, creativity, learning about our community and developing a relationship of love and respect for mother nature herself.

We do not see nature with our eye, but with our understandings and our hearts (William Hazlitt, 1859)

We were delighted to hear that this research has been published in the International Journal of Early Years Education.

For anyone wanting to access the article, please click here 

A big thank you to Leanne Grogan for allowing us at Mairtown Kindergarten to be involved in this research and for giving us the opportunity to share this enormously important work.

When children see that you wonder about and care for living things, when you marvel at a flower or a sunset or the moon on a particular night, that gives them a respect for nature too. It’s contagious! (Fred Rogers)

Hei konā mai,

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Mairtown Matariki Hāngī 2018

To finish off our Matariki celebrations at Mairtown Kindergarten we had our annual Matariki Hāngī.

This event is something that the children and their whānau really look forward to. In the weeks leading up to the Hāngī, we have a count down of days on our calendar which helps build a sense of excitement for everyone. We asked our families to donate vegetables for the event and we had an overwhelming response to this - thank you. We also were kindly donated the hireage of the MultiKai Cooker from Gayla and Doug Andrews.

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.

When the day arrived the kindergarten was a buzz of activity as we had whānau helping prepare the food for the cooker and making the fry bread and stuffing. We needed get this on early so it would be cooked in time for the evenings feast. With all the wonderful support we had the MultiKai Cooker on in record time.

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.

After session the teachers, with the help of others, transformed the kindergarten environment was transformed ready for the evenings event. It was so lovely watching everyone arrive, filled with joy and delight. The atmosphere was just beautiful; fire glowing, music playing (thanks to Kelly and Wil) and everyone just having a good old catch up.

The lifting of the Hāngī was then underway and everyone got to enjoy the food that was prepared earlier that day. The dessert table was then enjoyed, along with toasted marshmallows over the fire. To finish off our lovely evening we had a lantern parade down the street, singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’.

Thank you so much for everyone who made our Matariki Hāngī such a wonderful event. It was such a beautiful day and night. Thank you for making Mairtown Kindergarten such a lovely place. We really appreciate your support and all the good energy that you bring to our community.

He wā motuhake
A special moment

Please take a moment to watch our lovely video that Christine has put together, which captures our day beautifully.

Kindest regards,
Zair, Susie, Amy, Sarah and Christine 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Matariki Harvest Day - The gift of sharing with others

On Wednesday the 20th June our kindergarten was full of a joyful buzz as we hosted our annual Matariki Harvest Day. This is a highly anticipated day for the children, their whānau and the teaching team. 

For Harvest Day our whānau were invited to bring a gift from their garden or a home-made treat along with a provocation or thought to nourish the receivers heart.

Our Harvest Day is all about 'random acts of kindness'. The gifts were placed on our harvest table and at the end of the day children and their whānau were able take something home.

This is a Matariki celebration tradition that has been happening at Mairtown for many years now. We often get asked about how the Harvest Day event sits within recognising Matariki. One part of this special time of year in Aotearoa revolves around the gathering of food - and this is often when the Matariki stars reappear in the sky (May/June) - once harvesting is complete and the store rooms are full of kai.  

Kiwifamilies.co.nz (2018) acknowledge that,  

"The disappearance of Matariki {the star cluster} in Autumn, signals the time to gather and preserve crops. The Matariki disappear from view in April, and reappear again in late May/early June. So this was an important marker in the harvest calendar.

After the harvesting of traditional crops, such as kumara, pikopiko and karaka berries, when the storehouses were full, Maori would celebrate the harvest season. This celebration coincided with the reappearance of Matariki."

We had such a lovely response and it was evident that lots of joy and love was shared, given and received throughout this day. On this day I heard both children and adults talking about how this is such a lovely day and that the act of giving to others was such a lovely practice. 

One of the children shared with me, "You know I brought this (points to a bag on the table) and I think that someone else will like to take that home and share it with their Mum and Dad and family. I would like to take somethings home to share at my house. That will make everyone SO happy. This is a happy table!"

The act of giving is a wonderful trait to celebrate and acknowledge. We love that at Mairtown Kindergarten we are creating a culture of sharing and giving to others. Although this is an event that happens once a year at kindergarten, it is something that we like to practise on a day to day basis.

“The act of giving expands one’s entire life experiences because nothing is more fulfilling than one’s capacity to give.”(P. Rashad)

Giving to others, without expecting anything in return is something that we (as adults) should all role model to children. No matter how small an act of kindness is, it has a huge impact on how someone may feel. I think that it is important that we all role model kindness and giving to others and our Harvest Day is just one way we can do this.  

Being able to take something home at the end of the day to share is also a wonderful experience for the children. Many of them spent time during the day checking out what was on offer. The table was full of delicious kai and all of it needed to be shared out amongst the kindergarten whā​nau.

Matariki is such a special time of year and I am so happy that all our kindergarten families and their children embrace it with such enthusiasm. At Mairtown we love to celebrate Matariki  because it is unique to our country and culture. During Matariki we get to celebrate our unique place in the world. We get to give respect to the whenua on which we live, and admiration to our mother earth Papatūānuku. Matariki for us signals growth. It’s a time of change. It’s a time to prepare, and a time of action. During Matariki we acknowledge what we have and what we have to give. Matariki celebrates the diversity of life. It’s a celebration of culture, language, spirit and people.

"The more children are treated with deep care, the more they will treat others with care and kindness. Love and care and kindness; this is spiritual practice." (Kimberly Crisp)

Thank you to everyone who made our Matariki Harvest Day so special. We really appreciate your support and participation.

Hei konā mai,