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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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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Something Special ....

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.” – Richard Louv.

The teaching team at Mairtown have been discussing what we consider is special about Mairtown Kindergarten.  I believe that we have many special things at Mairtown Kindergarten, but one of those things we all agreed upon was our Nature Programme.  Since its conception in July 2011, we have enjoyed 8 years of a very successful Nature Programme, over 300 tamariki and whānau have been able to enjoy the Nature Programme alongside the teaching team.  

At Mairtown Kindergarten we consider the environment to be immensley importantly  and often refer to is as being "the third teacher". “The outdoor environment not only provides physical benefits, but also cognitive and social-emotional as well “(Pica, 2007). The Nature Programme is a wonderful extension of our Nature based curriculum that we offer at Mairtown. 

There is so much positive research and literature that support the benefits for tamariki to be able to experience nature and be immersed in the natural environment.  There are also many great established programmes in Aotearoa and around the world that also run forest schools, nature programmes and bush schools.  Which had me thinking – how are we different?  Well we are not really different, we have all have similar ideas, and consider learning in the environment paramount to supporting tamariki 's learning and development.  But I wanted to share what is “special” about our Nature Programme, in my years as Nature Programme Co-ordinator I have enjoyed every moment in the ngahere.  Here are just a few captured over the years:
Something Special No# 1 
 Discovery and Wonder

Tamariki are supported to be able to build on their curiosity and develop their inquiring skills and research. This supports them to be able to build on their own working theories about the natural world
(Ministry of Education, 2017).

Something Special No# 2  
Like ducks to water! You know you have had lots of fun, when you have to tip water out of your boots!
“Physically, children develop when exposed to the outdoors and nature, due to fewer constraints on their movement (Burdette & Whitaker, 2005); furthermore, being able to run, jump, roll, climb and build in natural spaces is far more beneficial to children’s balance, agility and fine/gross motor skills than the experiences in playing on man-made playground equipment (Waters & Maynard, 2010)” (Smith, D, 2015).

Children's voices:

“I really loved painting my face and I really love throwing rocks.  I REALLY LOVED everything on the Nature Programme!!!” – Millar-Rose.

“Playing in the meadow and my other favorite thing is eating hot chocolate and marshmallows” – Ashleigh.

"I loved making leaf boats and floating them down the river" - Florence.

"Going to the beach and throwing rocks" - Kelsey.

Something Special No#3 
A hot milo and marshmallows ….

This has to be one of the most special moments for most of the tamariki on the Nature Programme.  It is often one of the first things we will do when we arrive at the meadow.  This is an important time for the tamariki as they will sit for a while, chatting and eating their morning tea and enjoying their milo.

Whānau voices:

“Thank you so much for providing this wonderful programme, we really feel that our child’s appreciation for nature has been fostered”.

“Every week there is a buzz in the air with Nature Progamme closing in.  The anticipated excitement and the stories he brings home brings a smile to his face and ours.  Stories of adventures, mudslides, mates, plant life and lots of fun”.

“This is the highlight of his week, being able to explore and discover the forest”.

Something Special No# 4 
Climbing and Jumping

Balance skills, strength, agility, collaboration and awareness of themselves and others and the environment. Supporting tamariki to manage risks and challenges where tamariki are exposed to carefully managed risks,  this in turn supports tamariki to learn sound judgement in assessing risks themselves, and building confidence, resilience and self-belief. 

Something special No# 5 

The Nature Programme offers opportunities for tamariki to explore their creativity using a wide range of natural materials. 

" When participating in the arts, children should be able to freely discover and explore materials and resources, fostering motivation to create something using their imagination and ideas. When young children partake in art opportunities that allow for freedom, experimentation, and exploration in a no-failure environment, they will not become bored, stressed or passive as the atmosphere is relaxed and allows for creativity and free expression, similar to when they are free-playing." (Jenson, 2018) 

In the years that I have been part of this special journey with Mairtown Kindergarten, tamariki, whānau and teaching team and we have spent lots of wonderful hours down in the ngahere with the tamariki.  Every week is different and every week new learning and discovery takes place.   We are very lucky to have this beautiful environment that we can utilise every week, and to have it firmly placed within our curriculum at Mairtown.   

We have been very thankful to have been previously supported by the Community Organisation Grants Schemes (COGs) and the Grass Roots Fund, but we now rely heavily on our Mairtown Community who supports the Nature Programme with our Kindergarten fundraising for its ongoing success.  We would like to thank our wonderful community for supporting our Nature Programme, giving all tamariki the opportunity to enjoy this special place.

Ngā mihi nui Sarah