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.
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,