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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Thursday, 26 February 2015

The wonders of water play: increasing sustainability awareness

Water is a very popular resource for our children and it is highly valuable when it comes to supporting children’s learning and development. ECE Lead recognise that “Water play is an enjoyable and soothing activity where children can play and learn alone or alongside others. Children can participate at any level with no expected end result or product. Water play helps children to - Develop hand-eye coordination and the manipulative skills of lifting, pouring and controlling - Explore the early mathematical and scientific concepts of heavy/light, float/sink, full/empty and shallow/deep and learn about measuring, estimating, and conservation of volume - Develop concentration and problem solving skills as they become absorbed in their experimentation - Develop social skills as they play alongside and communicate with others.”

Our children engage in water play on a daily basis. Whether it is containers filled with vibrant coloured water, a water trough set up with hoses and funnels, our wonderful river bed flowing or taps in the sand pit with pipes and spades; it is a resource that is utilised constantly. It often is a platform for supporting children in building relationships with one another, opening up opportunities to share lots of dialogue and learning about taking turns, sharing and negotiating. It allows for our children to explore mathematical and scientific concepts, testing and playing with ideas and just being at one with this lovely natural resource. Water play is often open ended and transportable therefore children are able to be creative and use their imagination to build on their play. Water celebrates exploration, with lots of children’s senses being utilised while engaged with the resources. It is wonderful on its own and also when it is mixed with other natural resources like sand, dirt, flowers, leaves or bark. Time spent playing with water is often filled with calmness, concentration and delight (unless it involves jumping and splashing in the river bed or muddy puddles, then it is full-noise fun!). The benefits of playing with water are rich and meaningful in terms of children learning about their world.

"Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder.”  (Cobb 1977, Louv 1991).

With this in mind we are also aware that we need to make it clear to children that water needs to be conserved. Water is nature’s most precious resource, one that we all need to respect. As educators it is important that we create an environment where children have opportunities to develop a real awareness around this. Talking to the children about our role in conserving water and its importance, as well as explaining that sometimes they will only have a certain amount of water to use for the day are some of the methods that we use to help lower our water consumption at kindergarten. We believe that when children have a greater understanding and background knowledge as to why we need to be careful with how much water we use, then they can share this knowledge with others.

Next week we are having our annual ‘Wheels-a-thon’ fundraiser. The monies raised by this is event are going to go towards purchasing some hand operated water pumps which are attached to half wine barrels. These can be filled up with a certain amount of water for the day, meaning the children will have to work hard to obtain their share. This will be one way in which the children will have an opportunity to develop an awareness of how this resources is precious and to be careful around how it is utilized in their play to make it last.

 We want our children to become our kaitiaki (guardians) for our future generation, who protect and honour our natural resources like water. The concept of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) gives a wonderful Māori world view on the importance of looking after our environment.
“The long-established Māori system of environmental management is holistic. It is a system that ensures harmony within the environment, providing a process of, as well as preventing intrusions that cause permanent imbalances and guards against environmental damage. Kaitiakitanga is a concept that has roots deeply embedded in the complex code of  tikanga. Kaitiakitanga is a broad notion which includes the following ideas: guardianship, care, wise environmental management.” (Wikipedia)

I asked a group of children a few questions like; “Where do you think water comes from? How can we look after water? What do you like to do with water?” 

“I think it comes from the tap and if we drink too much from the tap it will run out. I turn the taps off when I’m not using them. I just jump in puddles the rain makes in my drive way. I really like playing with the water in the sandpit, making it go in the pipes is fun” (Toby)

“Water comes from the rain clouds and there is a song about it. It’s about a spider that goes up the drain and then the rain comes in fast and washes the spider out. I save water at kindergarten, you have to stop the tap so you don’t waste the water. I love it when it rains and makes puddles and I jump in them so much.” (Miller)

“The water comes from the sky. It’s not good to leave the tap running because you waste the water. I like jumping in puddles on the grass here at kindergarten. When it rains, it mixes with the grass and makes a big muddy as puddle.” (Taika)

“Water comes from the rain I know because I thinked about it and I know because it was in my brain. I really like all the coloured water in the bowls. We make lots of food there, just pretend food we don’t eat. One day some tipped the water out and then there was no more and we could have no more which was sad.” (Matteo)

“If we don’t have any rain we won’t have any water. It’s important the rain you know, it makes all the water in the pipes and taps.” (Braeden)

“I like digging in the sandpit and making a hole that the water goes in. We fill it up and it make a pool. Sometimes the kids jump in the pools and they splash so big. I know that we need to make sure we turn off the taps in the sandpit so the water doesn’t run out. You know I know that water comes from the mountains into a big lake. It then goes through a big machine to get the sours out of it. Then we can use it and drink it.” (Peter)
“Teaching children about caring for the natural environment provides them with a range of opportunities for rich, hands-on learning experiences about nature and the environment, and provokes curiosity, creativity and critical thinking skills.”
NCAC, 2009)

I look forward to the purchase of our new hand pumps and seeing how they support our children in developing even more of an awareness the importance of conserving this wonderful natural resource. Sustainability is an incredibly significant concept that we need to foster, role-model, nurture and teach.

Water permeates life on EarthSustainable development of water resources refers to a holistic approach to development, conservation, and management of water resources…Sustainability is of paramount importance for the survival of living beings. The role of water in sustainability can be compared to role of the heart in human body.”

 Till next time,


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Drawing with Scissors: A look into the work of Henri Matisse.

Over the last couple of weeks I have introduced many of our children at Mairtown to the artist Henri Matisse. Matisse loved colour and shape, and when you look, really look into his work, you can see so many interesting shapes.

Before I begin writing too much about what we have been doing at Mairtown, have a quick look at this picture below and think about what you see.

Do you notice the bright bursts of colour and the interesting, wiggly shapes that appear to dance and float on the page? This is one of the many pieces of art by Matisse and is titled ‘The Codomas’ (1947). When Matisse made this bold and abstract picture he was remembering the circus and his travels (when I look at this picture I can see trapeze and I wonder if the black squares are the watching crowd?)

Matisse began his art career as a painter but as he got older, due to health reasons he changed his style and he began to cut paper into shapes, arranging them to create large, very beautiful collages. Matisse called this way of making art ‘Drawing with scissors’. It was after hearing this term that I thought the children at Mairtown may like to look into his work, and discover a little more a little Matisse and of course try their own creations.

We began our work a couple of weeks ago with just a couple of Matisse’s cut-out pictures for reference. This last week however I collected a book ‘The cut-outs’ from the library, and things have really taken off as we were able to really get close to, and examine a larger selection of his work in a more detail.

 As we looked at some of these cut-outs by Matisse, initially I invited the children to look deep into his work, to notice Matisse’s use of bright, bold colours, wild lines and playful shapes. Wishing to motivate the children’s creative thinking I asked them some questions such as ‘What do you see?’ ‘What do you imagine?’ and then in groups we shared some of the titles Matisse gave to his cut-out pictures (for instance ‘The clown’) encouraging some interesting and at times humorous dialogue as we looked for clues as to what he may have been wishing to represent.

Children’s interest in making art is increased if adults encourage them to talk about art and artists- who artists are and how they make things (Schwartz & Taylor, 1981)

Art, as we tend to think, is about pen and paper, or paint and pastels etc., so when the children first began their own representations of cut-outs some were keen to draw – this alone presented itself as a challenge, a new way of thinking, a bit of a risk!

Emma told the group as she worked on her first cut out: ‘I find it strange that we don’t use pens cause I want to do eyes but instead I did the eyes with paper. It made me a little bit nervous, but it looks so so beautiful.’ Then later, as she became more familiar with this method of creating art she cheerfully told children who were just beginning their work into Matisse, ‘We don’t use pens, we cut the shapes out and we can’t colour, we use paper, it’s hard work, it’s making me tired, but I like it!’

It was interesting for me as their teacher to see just how quickly all our children overcame these challenges and how they worked hard to persist and persevere. Many children were experts with scissors already, whilst some of the children were just beginning their learning on how to use this tool. Whatever stage they were at, the children were motivated and their success in their work often stemmed from fantastic team work (with older children assisting younger) strengthening relationships and making me once again very aware of the culture of caring that is so evident here at Mairtown [Zair wrote a lovely post about this several weeks ago - see here].  Creating these cut-outs has certainly captured the children’s creativity and imaginations, as well as enhancing their curiosity, and fostering their love of learning.

Collage is a wonderful medium for young children. It offers endless opportunities for self-expression, allows children to feel successful at any age, and is also great developing fine motor skills (Bruehl, 2011, p.144).

At the beginning when children were new to the experience I talked about selecting just a couple of colours (so they wouldn’t feel too overwhelmed), and we did lots of talking about shapes they may like.

One of the problems with collage of course, is that the more we worked, the more left over scraps of paper we had! We soon turned this around however, and the children began using these scraps, adding them to their work, noticing the interesting outlines, for instance pieces of paper that looked like heads, elephants, and dragon stripes!

I have just loved working with the children on this topic. One aspect that I have really enjoyed is listening to the titles the children have given their own work (they were all keen to do this after knowing Matisse names each of his pieces!) and how many have created some wonderful stories about their work to go alongside their titles.

Conversations and sharing of artwork with children is important in that it extends thinking and reflection and shows that we value their ideas and their perspectives (Mulcahey, 2009, p.58)

Here are some stunning examples:

'The Christmas Tree'

'I cut out a vacuum cleaner and a kiwi. So there is a desert with kiwi's, and a mum kiwi, a baby kiwi, a dad on a bridge. The bridge goes to the kiwi's, they use the bridge. I will call it the desert...no, no, Mittens'

‘I want to make a unicorn. I am thinking hard about my unicorn and where it can live. I think my unicorn can live in a desert – oh and it will need water. So that’s where the unicorn can drink and have a bath. Well…the purple rainbow makes the unicorn purple and the blue rain makes the unicorn’s eyes blue and the sun makes the heat. And I need a palm tree cause it’s very hot and the unicorn, hmm, it will need some shade. I keep thinking of different names, oh I got it, ‘The Unicornetes’ – yes that’s the title!’

 ‘Dinosaur by Franchi’    


And to finish let me share some words (great words!) from Matisse:
Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play’ 

Ngā mihi nui,