Connecting communities: celebrating cultural diversity in ECE

Issue: Volume 94, Number 7

Posted: 4 May 2015
Reference #: 1H9cqz

Sydenham Community Preschool and Springs Community Early Learning Centre share their stories on connecting children to their communities through cultural responsiveness.

Pasifika culture at Sydenham community preschool: Denny Bodger - teacher

“Talofa and welcome to a new year. On our first day back after a long summer break teacher Rhonda Duncraft and I decided to conduct an ava [honour] ceremony with our tamaiti and faiaaoga [children and teachers]. We thought that this would be a lovely way of introducing our new children and teachers to each other and for the other children to reconnect. Rhonda and I have completed our Pasifika professional development that we have been a part of for over a year now; this prompted the idea. We have a beautiful ava bowl that we bought in Samoa, coconut shells to drink out of, and teacher Koleta Brown, who knows the correct language to use when introducing each other.

We have our beautiful fala [mat] that we sit on, and the tamaiti sat very respectfully around it with their legs folded. They were very curious [fia iloa] about what was going to happen. Koleta loves to share her culture with us, connecting her place and experiences together. Rhonda, Koleta and I modelled what we knew during the ava ceremony and the children listened and took it all in.

Usually it’s ava in the bowl which is a feature of Samoan culture but for the children we just used water. Being aware of health and safety we knew that the tamaiti couldn’t share the bowls to drink out of, so I had a bucket of water to rinse the coconut bowls as we went.

What a great way to introduce our new tamaiti and our new teacher Rhonda S to each other. (We have 3 Rhondas at preschool now!)

I was so proud of the tamaiti; they were very respectful sitting on the fala for a very long time waiting for their turn. We only had two children who did not want to participate so it was great to see the tamaiti giving new things a go (taumafai).”

Rhonda Duncraft – teacher

Because of our commitment to Pasifika, and the fact that it’s a new term with new teachers and children, it was appropriate to hold an ava welcoming ceremony. We have the resources previously purchased from Samoa, and Koleta Brown to support and guide us. This is a change from our normal welcome, and an experience that connects us to our multicultural community.

The ava ceremony is an experience that we as teachers have been involved in numerous times, so for us it was revisiting and thinking the process through, making sure we were aware of correct protocols, and how to make it an inclusive learning experience for the children. For the children this is different, experiencing a new way to welcome their peers and teachers.

The children were very patient [loto onosai] as they needed to wait for their turn; in saying that it gave them the opportunity to observe and follow the procedure so that when it was their turn they were confident, and that was reflected as they thanked Koleta [Fa’afetai]. Manav is a new child of Fijian Indian heritage at our learning centre, and for him the ava ceremony connected places and experiences. You could see the impact the ceremony was having by the look on his face; he knew exactly what it was all about, and he was clearly empowered as he drank from the bowl, then thanked us in Hindi.

Now whenever we induct new children or teachers, or welcome visitors and special guests, we will hold an ava ceremony, to further Sydenham Community Preschool’s respect and support for the right of each child to be confident in their culture, and to understand and respect the cultures of their classmates.

A few Samoan words your children could learn:

Fa’afetai – Thank you
Fa’amolemole – Please
Tu i luga – Stand up
Lelei – Good
Mālō – Well done
Nofo i lalo – Sit down
Tautala mai – Talk to me
Alu i fafo – Go outside
Sau i totonu – Come inside.

Springs community early learning centre visit Te Matatini: Rayleen Tranter - teacher

“A small group of children from our centre were fortunate to witness the cream of kapa haka talent from throughout Aotearoa and Australia competing for national honours, at

North Hagley Park for this year’s Te Matatini National Kapa haka Festival. At Springs Community Early Learning Centre we view everything we do through the lens of belonging, culture, and identity, so we knew the outing would be valuable in this sense.

The theme of the festival was ngā rākau aroha – a loving heart. The last time Christchurch hosted this event was back in 1986, so we knew it was going to be a real treat to see such high calibre performances live! The first day of the competition was blazing hot, and the performances certainly lived up to our expectations.

Before we even got to the entrance gates we were greeted with powerful choral singing, which was instantly recognised by the children, who identified it as ‘kapa haka’. The children were curious to examine the ‘olden day’ photos on the fences near the entrance, studying them up close. It was packed and hard to move into the performance area, but we found a spot where we were able to join another school on their tarp.

The children settled down in time for the performance to begin – we watched the defending champions, Te Waka Huia, five times national winners, perform. A full 40 minute set held the attention of tamariki throughout. They were captivated when the audience spontaneously broke into a haka to honour the champions following their performance.

We watched another set before we moved off and looked around the stalls. It was good to be moving again and a game of ‘ring a ring o’ roses’ gave the children’s legs a good stretch. Ngāi Tahu had lots of free give-aways and the children were delighted with their bags of lollies and hats that they were given. The children all said ‘kia ora’ to say ‘thank you’ for the gifts.

It was great that the children could have this experience as it links directly to culture, language and identity, along with the essential element of whānaungatanga, the importance of people and connectedness.

For one Māori child in particular, this was an excellent opportunity to experience the mana of her people – she was totally absorbed in the experience and remained focused for such a long time considering her age. After the event her mother said:

“At home she watches kapa haka with her Dad on the Māori channel. She’s been doing it at home; after the performance she says, ‘It’s not scary’, but a while ago she used to say it was scary. She does the ‘were’ and says ‘tahi, rua, toru and paki paki.’ She knows to put them together and associates kapa haka with Māori words. It’s so good.”

The benefits of going beyond the centre gate and accessing the wider community bestow such beneficial education gains for children. We are seeing this effect after taking the children to Te Matatini. The power of the passionate choral singing impacted on our children, and has reawakened their passion and interest in kapa haka. Their style of kapa haka has changed; it is now delivered with such energy and passion, like they observed.

Kohikohia ngā kākano, whakaritea te pārekerekere, kia puāwai – Gather the seeds, prepare the seed bed carefully, and you will be gifted with an abundance of food.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:55 PM, 4 May 2015

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