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, 27 August 2018

Sharing our wider worlds

As a team, all teachers within the Northland Kindergarten Association use the teaching inquiry approach to ensure we are committed to our own ongoing learning journey. This means that we each develop a question which we seek to answer in order to provide enhanced outcomes for children and their whānau. My current inquiry question is; How can I support children to develop a strong sense of identity so that they grow and develop with a secure knowledge of who they are in the context of their position within the wider world?

In our philosophy statement at Mairtown Kindergarten we state that we believe that everyone in our learning community is beautifully unique and has a wealth of knowledge, which we love to honour.

As a teaching team, we recognise that a lot of this knowledge is developed outside of Kindergarten – from an array of experiences with family and in the wider community which contribute to their own culture and ways of being.

One of our challenges as teachers is to ensure that this knowledge and this culture is able to shine through and be seen, heard and honoured within our Kindergarten environment for every child. As Te Whāriki reminds us, children learn and develop best when their culture, knowledge and community are affirmed and when the people in their lives help them to make connections across settings (Ministry of Education, 2017).

Term breaks are a time when our children are able to unwind, rest and refresh from an often busy term of learning and playing, but they are also valuable because our children are at home with whānau, having rich experiences beyond what are on offer at Kindergarten, relevant to their own family culture and values.

Bella at her swimming lesson

Jayden having a ride in a big red truck

On their return to Kindergarten they are often alight with excitement about the things that they have been doing during this time. This provided the opportunity for us to introduce a “whānau news” space within our environment, where photos of children outside of Kindergarten can be displayed for others to see. “Children experience an environment where connecting links with the family and wider world are affirmed and extended” and “children become increasingly capable of making connections between people, places, and things in their world” (Ministry of Education, 2017).

Grace has been busy driving a digger!!
"We're building a room for Grandma Dot and Aunty Rachel. There is wet concrete and dry concrete" - Grace

Charlie has been out on the harbour in his Grandparent's boat

This initiative has had a ripple effect within our Kindergarten community. Before we even had a chance to get this information out to our parents by email or newsletter, we had parents approaching us to ask “What is this photo thing the children are talking about?”. Children were going home and sharing with their families in the evenings some of their friends news, excited about commonalities they had found with their peers, or something new they had seen in the photos.

Before we knew it, this little ripple had turned into a river of photos! We had to expand the space we were filling and use both sides of the board. Receiving this kind of support from our whānau was beautiful, encouraging and not only was our photo board full, but our hearts were too.

The photos we received were a spectacular array of moments, captured on camera. They ranged from overseas holidays on planes, exploring within Aotearoa, trips to local parks, museums and attractions, baking at home, playing in the garden, spending time with family, and some “firsts” to be proud of. All of these photos were taken in with interest and appreciated equally by our tamariki.

McKenzie's first time holding a chicken - this was a very courageous moment for McKenzie which the children and teachers have all celebrated alongside her!
"That's me holding a chicken at Heidi's place. Heidi held the chicken and Mummy gave it to me but it was nearly going to get down!" - McKenzie
Charlize (R) with her big sister on Mt Ruapehu. Charlize noticed that I had displayed a photo of my family also visiting Mt Ruapehu and sledding in the snow.
"I love your family Amy. You go'd on the snow with me! We made a snowman and went sliding" - Charlize 

Florence and Taikura made some amazing connections through this picture of Florence at home at her art desk
Florence: Look I'm doing art
Taikura: I go to Florence's house and I paint with her
Florence: Yeah Tai-tai went to my house. My art desk is from Nan Jan and Dida

Taikura: (pointing at another photo) Hey look there's Ferny!

Florence: Do you know, I saw Ferny at hockey? 

Taikura: Florence, do you know, my Dad said you are going to play hockey at my house!

For some of our children this was turning into a daily ritual; checking the board for new photos, helping to add new photos, deciding how they should be displayed, pointing out their friends and themselves, sharing their knowledge of their own photos and their friend’s photos too.

Although the board is positioned in quite a bustling thoroughfare area of our Kindergarten, it has not been unusual to find children huddled around the board deep in discussion, to the point where they have dragged chairs over and made themselves entirely at home. These opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation are treasured at Mairtown Kindergarten as we believe that languages develop in contexts where children have a need to know and a reason to communicate.

One of the more interesting observations we have made as teachers, is that the children are not necessarily focussed on their own pictures. They are taking great joy in pointing out their friends, noticing what others have been doing, recognising family members of other children, and describing how they think their friends are feeling in their photos. This move away from a self-centred view of the world, shows that our children are developing strong skills in empathy and caring for others.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one' (C.S. Lewis) 

Sharing a part of themselves can be an emotional risk for children, allowing their peers and teachers to see and understand a part of their lives which is outside of the Kindergarten environment. Developing the confidence to have a strong vision of themselves and a knowledge of what they stand for is a very positive experience. This is true for our tamariki, but also for us as teachers!

No significant learning occurs without a significant 
relationship (James Comer)

When we open up and share with each other, our relationship and understanding of each other deepens, and we are better able to act with empathy and understanding towards each other on a daily basis, as well as extend and challenge each other in appropriate ways.

Having the opportunity to articulate their culture, their family and their experiences within a safe space strengthens the vision a child has of who they are, their identity and their place in the world.

Kā tu ana ratou, ka ūhia rātou e ō rātou tūpuna
Where they stand, they are clothed by their ancestors

Hei konā mai, 


Monday, 13 August 2018

Nature Programme - Thank you to COG's and Fonterra Grass Roots Fund

Our Nature Programme has been a successful part of our kindergarten programme since July 2011. It is something that as a team we highly value and know that by providing this initiative there is a very positive flow on effect for the children and their whānau. It is a forward-thinking initiative and we are very proud to be able provide this service for our kindergarten community.

“Good for nature, good for you… And it’s a reciprocal relationship because as important as nature has been shown for our health and happiness, our interactions with the natural world are just as important for protecting nature and the environment…If we can help people to connect with nature, that’s not just good for them, its great news for nature….The more people that care intrinsically for their local environment and value the positive impact it has on their own lives, the more they’ll want to protect it from destruction. (Cloes & McRobert, 2016)

We are lucky to have such great support from our attending whānau and we are thankful that collectively as teachers we have a team that value this programme immensely and make sure that it’s something that we can maintain for all the children who attend Mairtown Kindergarten. To make this programme successful we do rely on funding to cover the costs of things like the wages of our Nature Programme Coordinator and to purchase wet weather gear so that the children and teachers can immerse themselves in this all-weather programme.

We have been lucky enough to be supported by the Community Organisation Grant Scheme (COG’s) for the last few years and this week we were really excited to find out that once more they are granting us funds to help cover the cost of our Nature Programme Coordinator. Sarah has been in this role for quite a number of years and she is such a gem in this role. Please check out our previous blog post about Sarah and the role she plays in our Nature Programme here, "Sarah,our beautiful Nature Programme Coordinator". This grant means a lot to our kindergarten community and it allows us to continue for another year to offer rich learning experiences for our children, for their whānau and for the teachers in our local ngahere.

This year we have also been lucky enough to have received a grant from the ‘Fonterra Grass Roots Fund’ to purchase new wet weather gear for the children and wet weather jackets for the teachers. At the beginning of this term we were able to try out our new gear for the first time on the Nature Programme. Being able to provide appropriate clothing for the children is so important. It helps make this programme inclusive and it also makes sure that the children can engage and enjoy what the natural environment has to offer in meaningful way.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” (Ranulph Fiennes)

Having the right clothing is so essential to explore the beautiful bush and all the exciting things that it has to offer. When we have wet weather gear on, even on the sunniest of days, it allows us to sit on the damp ground with no worries, it means we can go bum sliding in the mud while still staying ‘mostly’ clean and it allows us to play in the rain while staying warm and dry. Having wet weather gear is vital to our programme's success.

We believe that by providing this programme our children are able to have amazing experiences week after week in our 'back yard', and we are also creating many opportunities for them to develop their eco-literacy and sustainable thinking. This, we feel, is one of the most important and significant experiences that we can offer our children and whānau at Mairtown Kindergarten. We are supporting the children in building a great appreciation for nature and all it has to offer and encouraging them to think carefully about how they can look after our environment now and in the future.

"Effective environmental education programmes need to be personally relevant to the everyday lives of children and youth, and what is in their ‘own backyard’. It is important that programmes are directly related to the local context and give learners a chance to ‘explore and experience what’s around them’. Environmental educators need to reintroduce learners to their local area by exploring and experiencing it, by learning about it and celebrating it. By doing so, environmental educators help learners develop a sense of wonder and a sense of place." 
(Department of Conservation NZ, 2011)

We can’t thank both COG’s and Fonterra Grass Roots Fund enough for their support and we are truly grateful for the grants that they have gifted Mairtown Kindergarten this year. We are so delighted that we can continue to offer this fantastic programme for our community.

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

Nāku noa, nā,