“When one tugs a single thing in nature,
he finds it attached to the rest of the world”
– John Muir
As we have recently joined the Enviroschools movement and reflected for Bronze accreditation, we have been thinking about how we can support the children grow their environmental awareness. Part of my teacher inquiry also involved supporting children to “develop a strong vision of themselves as kaitiaki for a sustainable future”.
During a professional discussion with a colleage I was challenged to look into the meaning of kaitiaki. What understanding did the children have of this concept? How could we support them to become kaitiaki for our future unless they had a strong knowledge of this role? I began some small group inquiry work with the children, inviting them to share with me their ideas around what it means to be a kaitiaki and how we show this in our actions. I then invited the children to create art showing their idea’s around the role of kaitiaki.
|Ezra: We catch rats in rat traps|
|Mana: We could look after bees cause them make honey. Cause we always need to be gentle to bees when we see them.|
|Grace: We can look after sharks because in a boo from Elsie's library at school, people are catching sharks. I saw a few sharks on Blue Planet.|
As we run a very successful nature programme at Mairtown Kindergarten, and we incorporate environmentally sustainable practice into our programme, my initial thinking was that our children would be quite knowledgeable in this area and would have lots of knowledge to share with me. To begin with this was true, as our wonderful environmental warriors had sustainability at the forefront of their mind!
Anna: We could garden the soil and plant carrots
Patrick: Keeping earth nice
Jesse: Kaitiaki means you guard something
Ezra: Catching rats in rat traps
Teddie: Yeah and looking after the baby eggs
Bella: Don’t throw any rubbish on the road
Nikos: If we don’t have a world we won’t have anywhere to live
|Levi: I make sure I don't step on the flowers because the bees need them|
|Bella: At Kindergarten we clean the easels|
But then a different theme emerged, as many of our children began to talk about being “kaitiaki of the people” and nurturing and protecting the wairua of those around them so that as a collective, we can thrive.
Jesse: We care for our friends and the teachers. We can send presents to people, that will make them feel really happy if we sent people a card. That's being kaitiaki of the people
Joshua: Kaitiaki is being kind to people
Gabrielle: Remember the other time when I was looking after people at Kindergarten? That is kaitiaki
Sharlee-Bea: I look after my sister. Take care of her and have a snuggle on the couch
It was so interesting that the children naturally took this holistic view and seemed to know that the environment and those living within it could not succeed unless in mutuality. This relates to a Māori worldview of kaitiakitanga which considers the well-being of natural resources to be directly related to the well-being of the people. Having this vision of what it means to be a kaitiaki at Mairtown has opened our minds to new possibilities within our wider community. One of the guiding principles or ngā mātāpono of the Enviroschools kaupapa is to create sustainable communities. These are communities which “act in ways which nurture people now and into the future”
|Gabrielle: Remember the other time when I was looking after people at Kindergarten? That is kaitiaki|
|Millar-Rose: We have baby bunnies and we have to look after them because eagles might get them because did you know, we have eagles in our town. We love every animals in the whole entire world|
“Without a doubt our most significant resource and potential lies in our people and so looking into the future, how we nurture and support each other’s potential and how we plan for the future will have a significant bearing on what we achieve for ourselves and future generations”
(Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, 2010, p.4)
One of the reasons why I absolutely love teaching in Kindergarten is because our children see things in amazing ways, and I learn so much from them! I feel like the most important moment in this learning for me has come from the words of one of our beautiful 4 year olds, Florence. I think she has encapsulated the essence of kaitiakitanga and of environmental education and I would like to leave you with her poignant words...
Florence: I’m going to be a kaitiaki of the whole wide world. Do you know that’s a huge job for one person, but everyone can help