|"Hedwig" Artist: Bella|
Sadly, as we said farewell to Christine at the end of last term, we also said goodbye to Bluey our Blue Tongue Lizard. Bluey left with Christine to join her in her new adventures with a different group of children to care for him and love him.
This meant that at Mairtown, we found ourselves without a pet!
We have always placed high value on the learning that children gain through interacting with and caring for animals within the Kindergarten environment. In the past we have cared for fish, tadpoles, frogs and then Bluey the lizard.
The animal is a conduit for learning to be human: Some propose that it is only through the animal that we recognise our humanity (Jill Bone, 2003)
Because we had experienced the joy, and learning that takes place through caring for a pet, we decided that our Kindergarten could offer a loving home for a new pet.
And so it is my pleasure to introduce … Hedwig the Cockatiel!
Lots of learning took place before Hedwig even arrived at Mairtown. He is only a baby and although we chose him (or he chose us) we needed to wait until he was old enough to leave his breeder. We used this time to learn about Cockatiels – what kind of food they like, the care they need, their behaviour, how they like to be handled and what kind of interactions they prefer. We had many discussions with the children, both in small groups and at whānau time about the arrival of Hedwig.
|Hedwig learning about Cockatiels|
We also used this time to decide on his name. Names are so very important and are part of our identity. We believe they help define who we are and where we come from. They are part of our essence. So with this in mind, we knew Hedwig would need a special name and we knew our whole community needed to be involved in choosing it.
|The process of naming Hedwig|
We began by asking the children for their ideas for a name for our pet bird. They came up with a creative and wonderful long list of suggestions. We whittled it down to a favourite 5 names and then began the process of voting so that everyone in the community had a chance to contribute.
Our list of 5 top names put out to a vote were: Bonfire, Rocket, Griffin, Hedwig and Ruffy-rat-snap. Hedwig was a very clear winner once the voting concluded. This name was suggested by Fern and her Mum Emma. It was inspired by their love of Harry Potter, as Harry has a faithful and determined pet owl called Hedwig.
|Hedwig loves his head scratches and Fern and Emma get them juuuuust right (he told me)|
|Hedwig's first (warm) bath|
As Hedwig has settled in to Kindergarten life we have learned a lot about each other. The children have been very impressive with the way they have thought about Hedwig’s needs and how he might be feeling within different situations. Of course many of our children have animals at home so may be used to looking after pets, but for many of our children this responsibility and thinking of something other than themselves is very new.
|"I love making him things" - Holly|
|"He snuggles me under the neck and I love how everyone holds him and that he plays with me.|
I love him because he loves me!" - Millar-Rose
Empathy is such an important skill to develop, and this opportunity to practice empathy within our Kindergarten programme is extremely valuable. Research tells us that ‘Empathy, the ability to understand others and feel compassion for them, is arguably the most defining human quality – setting us apart from…other animals. Without it, we couldn’t function in social areas such as schools… and office workplaces that are the cornerstones of our society… it is at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element of emotional intelligence the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. Empathy goes far beyond sympathy, which might be considered ‘feeling for’ someone. Empathy, instead, is ‘feeling with’ that person, through the use of imagination (world.edu global education network, 2016).
|Hedwig helping the teachers in the office|
Hedwig has been embraced by our children and our community and the manaakitanga or care that Mairtown is known for has absolutely been shown to Hedwig. On our Matariki Harvest day Fern’s family brought in some harvest vegetables from their own garden especially for Hedwig, we have had Jayden’s lovely whānau donate a cosy bed for Hedwig’s cage and offer to share their knowledge of birds with us, many many children have made gifts of love for Hedwig, and drawn beautiful pictures for him and of him.
|Hedwig's delicious Harvest Day gifts|
I believe Hedwig feels this aroha or love towards him and he rewards us with beautiful singing and cuddles. He is also very cheeky and outgoing and really makes the children laugh. I think I can speak for all of us when I say he has truly captured our hearts.
|"I like it when he talks at whānau time!" - Taikura|
Having a pet…gives children the opportunity to observe, interact and learn about animals. It can be a valuable part of a child’s education and care experience, enriching their learning about nature, ecology and relationships (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority)