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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Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cooking on an open fire at kindergarten

In New Zealand, we are lucky to be a country with 4 distinct seasons. In summer our children become aware of the harshness of the New Zealand sun and the need to wear hats and sun screen. As the seasons progress, it is a time we can discuss and make clear the adventure of change, the natural rhythms of the earth and to observe all of nature around us. In Northland, we are particularly fortunate not to experience harsh winters, we can venture outside every day, yet we still need to wrap up warm at times! Over the last few weeks, we have noticed a definite cooling of our weather, of the arrival of some wintery crisp and chilly mornings. This is a perfect time to begin one of Mairtown’s winter rituals – Thursday fire day.

Obviously in the wrong hands fires are dangerous, so it is important to us, that we only progress with lightening our fires when the we feel the children are sufficiently ready. One way we do this is through lots of discussion, both in small and large groups. At our daily whānau times, and for many days prior to our fires starting we talk through what our fire days are like, (we even bring the unlit fire inside and practice) and of course what the rules are around fires, in order to keep ourselves safe.

 Practising at whānau time

Our children soon become experts on the rules, telling me ‘no scarves or capes, and that means the teachers too, they may burn you as they blow into the fire…walking around the fire only and no being silly…no balls around the fire…you need to keep your feet outside the safety bubble, only the teachers can go in the safety bubble…and…you can’t go outside when the fire is lit until two teachers are there, you have to wait on the step until two teachers are there.’

We have been creating, lighting and cooking food on an outside fire for over 6 years at Mairtown, and we have seen first-hand the benefits in terms of social experiences and cognitive learning that fires can offer. There is something soothing and social about sitting around the fire on a cold day.

 Preparing the fire

Fires create a sense of security and companionship at a very basis level of our humanity, and children should not be excluded from safely experiencing that warm glow (Sara Knight)

Building and preparing the fire ready for it to be lit is also a very important step in learning about fires. Each week the children delight in cleaning out the left overs embers and charcoal from the previous week, scrunching up newspaper and carefully laying kindling in the fire bowl ready for later. Naturally, it is not just the fire that needs preparing, the food we cook also be to be organised and planned. We cook many things over the winter season, but a firm favourite is our garlic and rosemary bread. The children help in the measuring and kneading of the dough and collect rosemary from our garden ready to be cut up and sprinkled in the garlic oil for flavouring.

There is a great deal of preparation on fire day and the children take charge. They arrive in the morning knowing what needs to be done. Collecting some friends, they begin. There is a sense of pride and ownership in their work, and there is lots of delight as they are finally rewarded with cooking their kai and enjoying eating it in the company of others.

The Early Childhood Council tell us that ‘fires can provide a wide range of learning for young children including: Science concepts – how heat changes objects; Cooking – with use of billies, pots, grills; Ethic of care in looking after your friends; Health and safety and how to manage risks, and, Working together as a collaborative community’. I would agree with this, but as I watch the children each week, see their knowledge and confidence grow I also know there is greater learning taking place. I see how building and preparing the fire builds independence and self-confidence. How cooking around the fire and discussing the rules with friends enables them to self-assess risk as well as developing group awareness and cooperation skills. How the simple act of just sitting and watching a fire enables conceptual knowledge about fires to develop, such as the effect of the heat on the wood and the way the wood changes with temperature. There is so much learning in just one relatively simple experience.

 As humans, we have disconnected ourselves from nature and all its elements, we need to find a pathway back. [Fire]…gives us warmth, a sense of security, a source of fuel that can create and alter materials, such as dough into bread…or wood into charcoal (Claire Warden).

For us in the southern hemisphere, we are just at the beginning of out winter sesaon; we can look forward to many more fires at kindergarten and a lot more delicious food being cooked over the next couple of months.
Ngā mihi,

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Mataariki Korowai

“At the heart of Maori culture is the sense of inclusion and the importance of expressing generosity to others. These values are an inherent part of modern-day Mataariki celebrations”
Dr Meihana Durie.
With Mataariki, Maori New Year celebrations are upon us, and at kindergarten I have done a project with the children on making a Korowai (Cloak). I sat down with each child and we talked about Mataariki and what it meant to be grateful/thankful. I asked the children what they were grateful/thankful for and here are some of their responses:
“Being nice, playing with Carter and the trolley and tools. Cuddling my Mum and Dad and kissing them” Maxwell.
“Hugs with my Mum. Love playing with my sister and playing golf with my Dad” Mayson.
“My family and friends” Adam.
“Mum, Dad and sister. Dancing like panda’s” Alfie.
“My breakfast” Georgie.
“My room, coming to kindy and playing with my friends. Making Lego with my family” Oliver.
“My Nana, she loves to make hearts with me. We like to play in the sunshine and on the grass. Lying on the grass and looking at the sunshine” Amelia.
Each child got to decorate a feather at kindergarten, whether it was a drawing, a painting or a picture of their family; they were able to do what they liked on their feather.

No two feathers were the same, which is important to me, as it represents each child at kindergarten in the way that it shows how they are unique and different. We celebrate the children for who they are and where they come from.

A feather was also sent home to our families so they could add their contribution as a whanau, as to what their whanau is grateful for. I had a great response and received so many stunning feathers from home. With the great array of feathers I was beyond excited to start the process of constructing this magnificent Korowai.
Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini.
It is not my strength alone, but the strength of many that contribute to my success.
As it all began to take shape you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face, I was extremely proud of this beautiful korowai. There was a table set up in kindergarten where the children and/or whanau could still contribute their feathers and at the end of each day I would attach the feathers to the korowai that was displayed on a wire manikin.

The completed Korowai is everything I had hoped for and more. I love the idea of bringing everyone’s individualized feathers together to create this stunningly beautiful piece of art. I’ve had some wonderful feedback from our whanau and I’d like to thank everyone for their wonderful contribution, I really do appreciate it. Please take the time to admire this gorgeous piece of art.

Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved. Mattie Stepanek.
Nga mihi
Kate xx.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Our Wonderful Christine: An interview about her research

Last year our wonderful Christine embarked on a research journey. This came about when she was awarded a Dr. Vince Ham eFellows scholarship from CORE Education. Her journey was intense and it kept her incredibly busy throughout the year. After many months of sorting out ethics and reflecting on a great research question Christine came up with her title, ‘Where do stories live? Building oral language through storytelling in an early years context.’

While working alongside our kindergarten children, Christine began to thoughtfully integrate her research into her day to day practice. ‘Where do stories live?’ or ‘does this have a story?’ became familiar questions that the children soon became very responsive to. The stories that were being told by the children were meaningful, delightful, heavy, interesting and they were a true representation of how the children were thinking and feeling. Recording the children’s words was powerful. Along with this culture of storytelling that Christine was creating came the rich use of oral language. The importance of ‘storying’ and story telling has now become the focus of our kindergarten and subtly underpins many of the happenings during our days at kindergarten.

Christine is an incredible practitioner, who has a desire to strive for excellence in all that she does. Her motivation is contagious and she is constantly inspiring our teaching team and our community with her work. Her passion for high quality education is also sort after by other professionals across the educational sectors, both nationally and internationally. Christine has now finished her research for her Dr. Vince Ham eFellowship, however her journey to develop a deeper understanding and knowledge around building oral language through storytelling in an early childhood context continues daily.

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” 
-Mario Andretti-

I feel immensely proud of Christine and feel thankful that I get to work alongside her at Mairtown Kindergarten. I know that the Northland Kindergarten Association also value the work that she achieves as well.
Below is a link to an interview that Christine had to discuss her research http://edtalks.org/#/video/christine-alford
 Please take time to watch, enjoy and appreciate. Click here for a link to her published findings from her research.

I feel that the quote below sums up Christine, as excellence in all she does is a given.

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” 


Thank you Christine for being such an inspiration and role model for me, as well as many other individuals out there.
Kindest regards